Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth is Ken Follett's historical novel about the building of a Cathedral in Kingsbridge, England in the 1100s. It's certainly not the kind of the book I usually read, and I expected to stop reading after a couple of chapters, but it rapidly become compelling reading and I found myself reading it continually. It's bee a while since a book captivated me, and it was an unexpected pleasure.

What makes the book interesting is the description of political maneuvering throughout the country at the time, with the church, the earls and kings all maneuvering to rule the land. There are a few interesting romances in the book, and they lend human interest to the entire affair, but are really secondary to the overall plot.

I found the characters interesting, and the depiction of the treatment of women in the era is probably accurate, with a few anachronisms that I never would have known about without referring to Wikipedia.

What's fun about the book is that the author plays a very long game. Insignificant events right at the end of the book get used later on, which then leads to interesting plot points. The villains are suitably villainous, and the protagonists, while not without their fault, are plausible. For instance, Prior Philips grows from being politically naive to becoming able to take advantage of setbacks and turn them into strengths, even to the point of humbling a king.

The book is written in clear transparent style, and is very accessible as a result. The language is clearly not that which would have been spoken during that era, but on the other hand, I'd much rather not have to struggle through Old English or Latin in order to understand what's happening.

I can recommend this book, even if you're not normally a fan of historical fiction, and have no real interest in religious affairs.

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