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Kingsbridge #1

The Pillars of the Earth

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Ken Follett is known worldwide as the master of split-second suspense, but his most beloved and bestselling book tells the magnificent tale of a twelfth-century monk driven to do the seemingly impossible: build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known.

Everything readers expect from Follett is here: intrigue, fast-paced action, and passionate romance. But what makes The Pillars of the Earth extraordinary is the time the twelfth century; the place feudal England; and the subject the building of a glorious cathedral. Follett has re-created the crude, flamboyant England of the Middle Ages in every detail. The vast forests, the walled towns, the castles, and the monasteries become a familiar landscape.

Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters into their dreams, their labors, and their loves: Tom, the master builder; Aliena, the ravishingly beautiful noblewoman; Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge; Jack, the artist in stone; and Ellen, the woman of the forest who casts a terrifying curse. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, each character is brought vividly to life.

The building of the cathedral, with the almost eerie artistry of the unschooled stonemasons, is the center of the drama. Around the site of the construction, Follett weaves a story of betrayal, revenge, and love, which begins with the public hanging of an innocent man and ends with the humiliation of a king.

For the TV tie-in edition with the same ISBN go to this Alternate Cover Edition

976 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 1989

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About the author

Ken Follett is one of the world’s most successful authors. Over 170 million copies of the 36 books he has written have been sold in over 80 countries and in 33 languages.

Born on June 5th, 1949 in Cardiff, Wales, the son of a tax inspector, Ken was educated at state schools and went on to graduate from University College, London, with an Honours degree in Philosophy – later to be made a Fellow of the College in 1995.

He started his career as a reporter, first with his hometown newspaper the South Wales Echo and then with the London Evening News. Subsequently, he worked for a small London publishing house, Everest Books, eventually becoming Deputy Managing Director.

Ken’s first major success came with the publication of Eye of the Needle in 1978. A World War II thriller set in England, this book earned him the 1979 Edgar Award for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America. It remains one of Ken’s most popular books.

In 1989, Ken’s epic novel about the building of a medieval cathedral, The Pillars of the Earth, was published. It reached number one on best-seller lists everywhere and was turned into a major television series produced by Ridley Scott, which aired in 2010. World Without End, the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, proved equally popular when it was published in 2007.

Ken’s new book, The Evening and the Morning, will be published in September 2020. It is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth and is set around the year 1,000, when Kingsbridge was an Anglo-Saxon settlement threatened by Viking invaders.

Ken has been active in numerous literacy charities and was president of Dyslexia Action for ten years. He was chair of the National Year of Reading, a joint initiative between government and businesses. He is also active in many Stevenage charities and is President of the Stevenage Community Trust and Patron of Home-Start Hertfordshire.

Ken, who loves music almost as much as he loves books, is an enthusiastic bass guitar player. He lives in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, with his wife Barbara, the former Labour Member of Parliament for Stevenage. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren and two Labradors.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 36,387 reviews
Profile Image for DeLaina.
78 reviews108 followers
July 26, 2011
I devour books. That is my euphemism for being so OCD that I can't put it down and live my life until I finish it. For shorter books, that's generally not a problem, but for the 974 page Pillars of the Earth...well, let's just say we ran out of food, my children clung to my legs asking for food, and the floors did not get vacuumed for a good five days while I whittled away at this book.

CLIFF HANGER: This book is not a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter kind of book, which makes it easier to read it in multiple sittings. However, Follett does such a masterful job of character development, that I found myself wanting to know what was going to happen next whether the end of the chapter contained a cliffhanger ending or not.

CHARACTER DEV'T: Each character is so beautifully defined and fleshed out, that they become almost real. I felt that I knew them personally, that I could accurately predict how they would react in different situations. None of them were 100% good or bad, just like in real life. Some priests were holy, others evil; some were rich people with big hearts, others with small minds and evil intentions; some poor farmers were judgmental, w/narrow-minded attitudes, others opened their doors to strangers.

PLOT/PACE: Foreshadowing was a very powerful convention that Follett skillfully weaved in and out of every chapter. It gave subtle hints, but never so overt as to suggest that the reader may be an imbecile. Backstories meander and come to closure at such a nice pace, that it always feels like something is happening and things are being resolved, for better or for worse.

THEMES: My favorite theme was that natural consequences followed the actions of the characters. (I'm still a bit out of sorts after reading the deus ex machina riddled Breaking Dawn, where all the natural consequences of three books worth of actions were completely erased-ugh.) There was a natural ebb and flow of triumph and misfortunes in Pillars of the Earth. Good things happened to bad people and bad things happened to good people, just like in real life. Follett does not try to save his characters from themselves, or from each other, and I enjoyed that very much.

STRONG WOMEN: I absolutely adored the strong women in this book! What a joy to read about Aliena, carving out her own future after her world had been turned upside down! Life knocked her down plenty, but each time, she got up, made a plan, and triumphed eventually. Ellen, and Agnes in her own way, were also strong women.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: As strange as it sounds, with all of the despair and misery that took place, the overarching take home for me, was HOPE. In the face of overwhelming adversity, these characters triumphed. The road was hard and the journey was long, but they CHOSE hope. They CHOSE faith. And in the end, that was all that mattered.

Pillars of the Earth will be on my favorite books list for a very long time.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
June 22, 2017
“The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.”

Look, it's difficult to explain exactly why I liked this book. Seriously, if you take a look at the blurb, note the 973 pages, and the fact it's a very long story about building a cathedral in Medieval England, you might think I've been smoking something. But for me - and I'm assuming for a large number of other readers - it was so damn compelling.

I'm going to get the crap out of the way first - if you are sensitive to scenes of rape, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. Medieval England is a shitfest of misogyny, violence, accusations of witchcraft and, yes, rape. One of the scenes is especially disturbing and graphic; I actually had to take a break from the book after reading it.

I should say that it is not portrayed as a positive, or even a normal, thing. Scenes of rape and brutal violence in the book largely serve to make us despise William Hamleigh with a ferocious passion. It turns out that a deep, seething hatred can really keep you turning pages, waiting for that bastard to get what he rightly deserves.

Anyway, yes, the main plot is about the building of the fictional Kingsbridge cathedral. But, really, it is about all the characters that come into contact with Kingsbridge, its cathedral, and Prior Philip - their loves, desires, ambitions, conflicts and heartbreaks. I was pulled in from the very dramatic prologue when a young woman arrives at a hanging and curses the three men who guaranteed her beloved's execution.

There are love stories in here, as well as tales of ruthless ambition, and betrayal. Follett has created some incredible and unforgettable characters: Tom Builder, Philip, Ellen, Jack, Aliena, and Waleran Bigod. And, of course, that snivelling stain on humanity that is William Hamleigh.

I haven't read any of Follett's other work, but it is not surprising to hear he was a thriller writer before beginning The Pillars of the Earth. He has carried that with him into this story. Just when everything seems to be going right, some catastrophe happens to throw a spanner in the works. Just when it looks like Philip is going to succeed, some more shit happens. But it was an effective way to keep me looking over my shoulder.

It's a strange book because it's a bloody, heart-pounding page-turner wrapped up in a 900-page, serious-looking, cathedral-building package. Strange, and yet I find myself wanting more. I guess I'll have to read World Without End.

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Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews313 followers
December 4, 2013
This book was popular? As in a mini-phenomenon? Seriously? Am I being punked? Tell the truth--no one else read the book. It was all an elaborate media/pop culture scheme to trick me into reading this book. Please lie to me about this. I'm not sure I can go on living if I have to believe that this is what my fellow man is reading these days.

My utter disdain for the book comes from many a source:

A) It's 900 pages. Mind you, I'll read 900 pages, even 1,500 pages, if it's amazing. But it has to be a crackerjack of a book. This was not.

B) Here's where this book and I really parted ways: Tom Builder's beloved wife, Agnes, dies in childbirth on the side of the road. Only hours later, Tom's rolling in the leaves with an attractive forest wench in a sex scene so ridiculous I could practically hear the "bow-chicka-wow-wow" music in the background. Poor Agnes' body isn't even cold yet and Tom's getting it on with a woman he had a 15 minute conversation with earlier in the book.

C) It's hard to believe this is medieval England, what with all the modern sensibilities and modern vernacular.

C) It could have been whittled down by about 500 pages if the scenes of people eating had been omitted.

E) The women, oh, the women. Witches or whores or victims of tag team rape.

Here's the basic rundown of the plot:

--Building a church, building a church, building a church . . .
--Oh, crap, a plot complication! We might not be able to build the church.
--Crafty Phillip overcomes the complication.
--Insert licentious sex scene.
--Building a church, building a church, building a church . . .
--Oh, crap, a plot complication! We might not be able to build the church.
--Crafty Phillip overcomes the complication.
--Now insert gratuitous sex scene.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. For 900 pages.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,990 followers
March 8, 2018

Did I just read one of the most amazing books I have ever read? Yes, yes I did!

I cannot say enough about this book, the story, the writing, the characters, etc. etc. etc. Everything is perfect!

If someone had said to me, “Here is a 1000 page book about the building of a cathedral 1000 years ago in England” I probably would have fallen asleep before the end of their sentence. But, do not judge a book by its description – it is a 1000 page book about the building of a cathedral, but Follett does an amazing job of crafting a historical fiction story around it that will keep you engaged from page one until the very end.

With 1000 pages, there has to be filler, right? There is not! Every sentence, every word – all of it adds to the story. And, events on page 25 may have ramifications on the events of page 825. How the author kept the storyline together, intertwined, and fully applicable throughout is amazing. I picture him referencing a very complicated flowchart covering his entire wall while writing this book. Sounds confusing – it is not! Despite the intricacies, it was very easy to follow.

Do you love to hate evil characters and feel passionate emotions for the ones you love? READ THIS! I don’t think I have ever wanted to reach into a book more and strangle a character than I did with this book. Then, I found myself audibly cheering and groaning as the relationships of my favorite characters developed, succeeded, and sometimes failed. I was emotionally spent loving and hating these characters – and it might be the most I have ever been emotionally invested in characters in a long time (if ever).

I cannot say that this book will be for everyone, but it is worth giving it a try. Especially if you like any of the following:

• Historical Fiction
• British Fiction
• Stories about church vs government
• Knights, monks, kings, and other medieval dramatis personae
• Character studies

This comes with a warning, though: I know I have some book friends who do not like violent depictions of sex. If that is a problem for you, either go into this story being aware that you will be uncomfortable, or steer away from it completely.
Profile Image for Francine.
126 reviews102 followers
January 24, 2016
I did not hate this book (hate would be too strong a word, and I can't hate it because I applaud the fact that Ken Follett attempted to write an epic novel). But I did not like it. I didn't like it from the start; his writing style hit me like a brick, but Jim thoroughly enjoyed the book that I kept trying to convince myself that I ought to give it a chance, hoping it would get better. When I was about 500 pages in, he saw how miserable I was and asked why I didn't just stop reading it, but at that point, I was invested in it; I had spent all that time getting that far, that I needed to finish it, and I couldn't wait to come to the end. I kept counting down: "Only 450 pages left; only 300 to go; last 200 pages...yay, I have 50 pages left!" Those fifty pages were the toughest to get through. By the time I was at the end, I thought it was a wasted effort - both on his part and mine.

It's so much easier to explicate on what I did not like because there were so many things:
- I loathed the writing style (he vacillated between pages and pages of highly complex architectural discourses to third-grade level simple sentences grouped into short paragraphs). Sometimes it was bearable. Other times, I wanted to pull my hair out. There were times when I felt the only time he came alive as an author was when he was discussing architecture, but these parts were so didactic in nature that it couldn't hold my interest for long periods of time.
- I did not like the author's narrative style. He had to tie everything together (causality was so prevalent throughout the text that I wondered how he didn't work in how the killing of a fly affected events 60 years later). Every single storyline was wrapped up - too neatly for my liking, in some cases. Everyone was tied to someone else (it was like playing Six Degrees); every single character had to have a denouement; every little plot twist had to be explained; closure had to be achieved, no matter how preposterous the circumstances, over time and space.
- The characterization was poor. In fact, it was appalling how two-dimensional these characters were. Good people were good. Bad people were loathsome. As time went on, the good were always suffering one thing or another; they were put upon; they were harrassed; they were constantly challenged and put to the test like Job (something Follett actually used as a sermon!). The badfolk became more oppressive over time; they were not only detestable, but they had absolutely no redeeming qualities. And to go with a typical medieval stereotype, the good were always excessively beautiful, honorable, intelligent (geniuses or savants, even!) - and if they weren't rich, they would be at the end (I half expected Havelok the Dane and his refrigerator mouth to pop up somewhere, proving once and for all that in the medieval period, to be good was to have the purest light shining out of your mouth each time you opened it). Nevertheless, the bad became uglier, became more despotic, scheming throughout life to get the better of their enemies (the goodfolk). But in the end, good always triumphed over evil; those who could, repented and were forgiven. Those who couldn't, were killed off somehow, because apparently, death is the only way an evil person gets his (or her) dues. And then everyone had a happy ending. I hate happy endings when they're so obviously contrived. And this work was so elaborately, exhaustively, thoroughly contrived. (Maybe it's not too late for me to change my mind and say I hated it. *grin*)
- Historically speaking, there was so much left to be desired. Granted, this novel was written two decades ago, and there have been new discoveries about the medieval period since Follett started his research. But he got it all wrong anyhow. His idea of medieval life was so...off, that it hurt my head to continue reading sometimes. I had to pause periodically and rant to Jim about what I currently found off-putting (for example, there weren't many literate people at the time; at the time this novel was set, there was still a distinct divide between England and Wales; reading and writing were two separate skill sets, and people who knew how to read did not necessarily know how to write and vice versa; orality was a prevalent part of storytelling back then and books not so much and yet somehow, he conflated much of both; manuscript writing was either orally dictated or copied tediously by the monks - his concept of a scriptorium was incomplete, defective - and there has been so much written about this that it saddened me; he used modern translations of medieval poetical/verse works and couldn't explain even alliterative verse form effectively - I even wonder if he knew what it was; his understanding of the languages of the period - Old English, Middle English, Latin, Norman French, Old French, Middle French, etc. - and what was spoken by the aristocrats vs. the peasants vs. the growing middle classes disgusts me; he showed a lack of understanding of medieval law, medieval rights, the social classes, gender roles, even the tales and legends of the period, in both England and France; priests were quite low on the totem pole, in terms of the religious hierarchy, and were quite disparaged yet somehow, that didn't quite come across in this novel...I could go on and on, but I won't).

And the historical part of the novel I just found lacking. There are enough histories and chronicles, contemporaneously written, of the time, that he did not have to deviate much from history. There is so much written about the period between the death of Henry I through the civil wars between the Empress Matilda and King Stephen, to the time that Henry II ascended the throne (including the martyrdom of Thomas a Beckett), that I don't quite understand how he couldn't have mined the chronicles for better material. I understand that this is why it's called historical fiction, and that there will always be some element of fiction interspersed with historical fact. But the fictional aspects usually have to do with surrounding characters and situations that bolster the history. The fiction is not necessarily to the history itself. Many times, when writing historical fiction, the author has to beware the pitfalls of creating a revisionist retelling, interspersing his or her own ideals or beliefs of what should have been to what was. If this novel had been marketed as a revisionary narrative, it would have been okay. But it wasn't. I'm just glad that the historical aspect of the novel just served as the background and not the real story. Because then, I probably would've stopped reading.

The premise was a good one and held a lot of promise. It could've been a great historical epic had it been handled by a more assured writer. By someone who was more of a visionary, someone who had the patience to do exhaustive research or who knew how to craft richly developed characters. It needed an author who understood the epic genre, who knew how to mold the epic, who knew how to keep the narrative going, seemlessly binding time with narration and the human condition, without resorting to stereotypes and grating drama. And most importantly, it needed someone who understood when the story had been told; that while there will always be other stories to tell, that each book has its own natural end, and that these stories may not belong in this book.

Ken Follett may be a bestselling author of suspense novels (and even historical fiction such as Pillars of the Earth and World without End), but he is no writer of epics. Compared to writers of historical fiction such as Edward Rutherford, James Michener, Bernard Cornwell or Margaret George, Ken Follett has a long way to go.
Profile Image for amelia.
62 reviews28 followers
November 18, 2007
This is seriously one of the worst books I've ever read. The only reason I finished the book is because I cannot put a book down once I start.

The writing is terrible. The plotting may be dramatic, but I had almost zero interest in any of the characters; they seem to exist merely for events to happen to them, like actors in a disaster movie. Beyond that there seemed to be three characters in the book: Bad guy, good guy, and good victimized-yet-able-to -overcome girl.

What got me most was: Ken Follett seemed so proud of his historical research that he mentions every 40 pages, "_____ took out his/her eating knife" Really, they didn't have forks, how is constantly reminding the audience of this fact important to the story? There were other oft repeated throughout the novel as well. This seemed like an attempt to fool the audience into thinking they're immersed in the middle ages, when the rest of the book could have taken place anywhere in time. One fact does not a novel make (unless it's a really clever fact.) The bad characters keeping the amazing building from completion felt like a fountainhead rip-off, but that might just be me.

On the positive (?) side the book is an extremely easy read, I might have enjoyed it more were I laying in the sun half drunk on something sweet and rum-filled. Violent sex too if that sort of thing titillates you.

Thank you "Wait Wait" for warning me of Oprah's evil plan, if I can save one person from reading this book my work will done.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
October 11, 2019
”He was mesmerized by the challenge of making soft, round shapes out of hard rock. The stone had a will of its own, and if he tried to make it do something it did not want to do, it would fight him, and his chisel would slip, or dig in too deeply, spoiling the shapes. But once he had got to know the lump of rock in front of him he could transform it.”

 photo Pillars20of20the20Earth_zpsdxd1nexw.jpg

There are so many memorable characters populating this epic novel that I would be hard pressed to even say who is the main character of this novel, but my favorite character is undisputed. His name is Jack, and later as he discovers the name of his father, he begins calling himself Jack Jackson. His mother, Ellen, falls in love with a man named Tom Builder. Jack finds himself nearly starving to death along with Tom’s kids, Alfred and Martha, as they trudge across England in search of someone who needs something built. Tom can build anything, but his dream, his most fervent desire, is to build a cathedral.

Jack is bright, unnaturally intelligent in fact, and it isn’t Alfred who turns out to be best suited to achieve Tom’s dreams (although Alfred is really good at beating the crap out of Jack on a daily basis). It is Jack who travels the world and discovers that cathedrals can soar high into the clouds beyond anything that Tom would have ever believed possible.

The backdrop for all these trials and tribulations that you will experience while reading this novel is the turbulent 12th century England. Henry Ist dies and leaves his daughter Empress Maude on the throne. This is extremely controversial because the nobles do not want a queen. If truth be known, they want a king, but a weak king they can control. Since Maude was born without a penis, this leaves the castle door open for her cousin Stephen, whom fortune has favored with a penis, to snatch the crown from her head and place it on his own. The nobles certainly do not want to work for a woman, but I think the issue that is even bigger is that Maude is very sure of herself, even one might say imperial. As her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, would quickly find out, she is a handful.

Civil war breaks out, and the people who suffer the most, of course, are the peasants, who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The destabilization of the civil structure of law also allows men like William of Hamleigh to do whatever they want to do and take whatever they want to take. He is an opportunist who switches sides several times in the dispute between Maude and Stephen, depending upon which of the cousins has the wind behind them at the time. William is but a brutish thug, a tool of his demented, greedy mother and then later a weapon of evil for an archbishop named Waleran Bigod (great name, eh?), who wishes to obtain more and more power at the cost of everyone else.

William and Jack become mortal enemies as Jack tries to build a cathedral at Kingsbridge and William tries to destroy the economy of Kingsbridge to bring more wealth to his neighboring town of Shiring. William also has an unnatural lust for Aliena that is one part desire and one part pain. See, unless a woman is crying, bleeding, and feeling anguish, William’s wee willie won’t work. Here is a typical list of topics with which William and his henchmen like to entertain themselves:

”In the evening they would drink beer and sharpen their blades and tell one another grisly stories about previous triumphs, young men mutilated, old men trampled beneath the hooves of warhorses, girls raped and women sodomized, children beheaded and babies spitted on the points of swords while their mothers screamed in anguish. Then they would attack tomorrow morning, Jack shuddered with fear. But this time we’re going to stop them, he thought.”

Jack is Aliena, and Aliena is Jack. They are soulmates, and though many disastrous things happen to them to try and keep them apart, I kept hoping that love will conquer all. I may like Jack the best, but I admire Aliena the most. She recovers from a horrendous attack at the hands of William of Hamleigh to become the largest wool merchant in the area. This is remarkable for anyone, but for a woman, a woman who has never had to work a day in her life, and a penniless one at that, to raise herself up to such heights is remarkable. She survives every disaster, even the ones she makes for herself, and finds a way to achieve some semblance of security for herself despite the overwhelming odds.

There is one more character I want to discuss, and that is Prior Philip of Gwynedd. The man who shared the same dream as Tom Builder to have a cathedral rise up from the ashes of the old church at Kingsbridge. ”Jack did not like Philip but he liked working with him. Jack did not warm to professional men of God any more than his mother did. He was embarrassed by Philip’s piety; he disliked his single-minded sinlessness; and he mistrusted his tendency to believe that God would take care of anything that he, Philip, could not cope with.”

There are times when I want to give Philip a good shake, but at no time do I question the sincerity of his beliefs. Even when those intent on evil ends are conspiring, even cheating, to obtain an advantage over Philip, he always stays on the high road. He makes enemies in lofty places, including the aforementioned Archbishop Waleran Bigod, who at every turn tries his level best to destroy Philip and his dreams of a cathedral. The church politics are so fascinating and create an extra level of intrigue in the novel that at times overshadow the quest for the throne.

There are a 1000 pages of juicy historical fiction awaiting you if you choose to accept this quest. This is not War and Peace, so do not be as afraid of that page count as reason would dictate, as the pages will fly by. I really needed some escapism into a different time and place, and this book served that purpose perfectly. As I was reading it, I kept thinking that this would have been a great choice for that long plane flight to Scotland last year. There are some graphic rape scenes, but they are purposeful to the plot and certainly are a part of a destabilized England at that time. Unfortunately, the very topics that William Hamleigh and his thugs find so amusing are a part of human history going back to the days when we were battering each other with sticks and stones. I would have to use another 1000 words to discuss all the other worthwhile aspects of this book, but I will leave the rest to you to discover on your own.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews289 followers
August 20, 2008
I know I'm going to be in the minority here, but this is truly one of the worst books I have ever read. I came so close to throwing the book across the room on several occasions, and ended up skipping through many pages just to get to the final and not too surprising finish.

The characters were flat and lifeless and seemed to have been transplanted from the 20th century into medieval England. The book was rife with unnecessary profanity that in no way enhanced the storyline and obscene gratuitous sex (I mean how many times did William have to rape someone to prove that he was a really really bad guy?). I noticed that at least one other reviewer commented that this book was required reading in his child's school, which if you are a parent I would recommend you take a good look at this book and perhaps take issue with your school district. As an adult I was shocked at the language and violence in this book, and find it totally inappropriate for a child and/or young adult.

I also noticed comments about the historical accuracy and research that must have been involved in writing this book. If that is so, it must only be in regards to the building of the cathedral and the civil war between Stephen and Maud. As for the rest, I must disagree, I have read many well written and researched books of medieval times (thank you Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick for such awesome reads), and I was infuriated on numerous discrepancies in this book. Examples and anyone may correct me if I'm mistaken as I am not a history major:

* Aliena is frequently described as having long, curling loose flowing hair. Women in those days wore their hair braided and covered, it being quite scandalous for any man other than her husband or lover to see it loose.

* After the attack on the castle, and the imprisonment of their father Aliena and Richard are allowed to live alone in the castle with only the steward? I doubt that the king would punish the children so for the sins of their fathers, and most likely would have been made wards of the king until they reached their majority. This was most desirable as the king could then skim the proceeds off the estates and funnel them to the crown's use. Sometimes a king would give ward ship to another party as a reward for service, etc.

* Young boys of the noble class were typically sent to another noble household to be raised and educated, first as squires and then trained in that household as a knight. What on earth was a teenaged Richard doing living at home?

* Much was made of William's warhorse. These were formidable beasts that were not easily handled by strangers. Yet Aliena and Richard were able to not only saddle the warhorse, but to get right on and ride it? I don't think so.

* The English nobility of that period were Norman French and did not speak the language of the peasant class. So how did Aliena manage to not only communicate with them, but could set up a successful business in that atmosphere?

I could go on with more examples if I had remembered to take notes, but there were many similar instances to this throughout the book. All I can say is that if you want to read a very well written and researched book on this period, please see Sharon Kay Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept and Time and Chance (Ballantine Reader's Circle). JMO.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
July 22, 2016
This book was so completely fantastic that I almost forgot the outside world existed when I was reading it. I’ve never be so emotionally invested in a story, as I was with this. It’s a rare book that does this to me. I think it’s because it follows the characters through such a large proportion of their lives, resulting in a large amount of intimacy and investment with them. Indeed, this novel spans a massive period of forty years and has 1000+ pages; this is no light reading; it is deep, emotive and completely brilliant.

The intense story


So much happens within this novel. It’s impossible to lay it down in a brief summary; these characters, quite literally, go through hell. Such is the life of commoners in the period. They are good folk, and are just trying to erect a church for the betterment of their town. However, the corruptness of the local nobility, and the church hierarchy itself, almost prevents them from achieving their aim. Prior Phillip and Jack the Builder are forced to seek out the aid from their monarch, but because of the turmoil of the civil war, this monarch keeps changing. They have a choice of two royal courts to appeal to. Both are convinced they have the legitimate claim to England’s throne. Picking the wrong side would lead to the ultimate ruination of a folk that simply want to live in peace, and celebrate God’s glory on earth.

Well, this is the mere surface level of the plot. This book is so much beyond it. It is a story of betrayal and seduction; it is a story of love and hardship; it is a story of human nature and the all-encompassing morals that imposes. It is just fantastic in every sense. The characters are real, and their hardships are even realer. These are truly some of the most human characters I‘ve ever read about; these people could have existed.


This is no less true for the villains of the book, William Hamleigh in particular is characterised superbly. For all his ruthless aggression, and sense of entitlement, he’s still a coward at heart. He’d never admit it to anyone, but the reader knows of what he is; the reader can see his blackening yellow heart. He is a product of society, and his parent’s ruthless ambition. He doesn’t deserve sympathy because of this, but the reason why he is the man he is can be seen by looking at his origins. His parents ruined him; he has no restraint; he has nobody to tell him no. So, to his mind, he can get away with anything. He even has a Bishop who will gladly absolve all his sins. He’s actions have no consequences; he can murder and rape without feeling the consequences. This is an incredibly dangerous mind-set, and one that almost destroys the protagonists of the book. He's a nasty man.

The strength of the church

Follet also weighs the potential power of the church. I love the way he contrasts godly Prior Phillip with the twisted Bishop Waleran. It shows us two routes the church could take; it shows us two possibilities for God’s monument on Earth. Prior Phillip is everything the church should be; he is kind and forgiving; he is benevolent and just: he is a true believer of Christ’s teachings. He is in the church for the simple reason that he is a man of faith. Contrastingly, Bishop Waleran is a tyrannical despot. He represents evryhting the church shouldn’t be; he is the personification of its potential evil. The Bishop is vain, greedy and ambitious. In this his will is his own; he is completely self-serving. He abuses his power to meet his own ends and self-aggrandisement. So, he is slightly corrupt. He’s only in the church for its political power and rewards. In this, he is not a true believer of his own faith.

By contrasting these two characters Follet demonstrates how the church has the power to do great good and also great evil. This, for me, is quite a strong message to take from the book because it shows us the dividing nature of man, of life, of good and evil; it shows us that all things can be benevolent or terrible. It also hints at redemption. If something is this bad, it can be made into something good once more; it has the potential to be as it should be in the right hands. I do love this story. It shows that if people can come together, to achieve something greater than themselves then humanity is not lost despite the backdrop of war, corruptness and general chaos.



Jack begins the novel as a mute boy with little human socialisation. At the end of the novel he is a respected builder and farther of the town. He is the anchor of Follet’s story telling. Everything centres on Jack, and his family history. His narrative questions the restraints the common man lived under in the period; it highlights the injustice the legal system exerted in the time. He cannot marry his love without a written divorce from his horrible step-brother who’d sooner see him live in misery than have the happiness he couldn’t achieve. The church doctrine almost prevents him from being a farther to his child. But, he perseveres and overcomes the restrictions of the church, his awful step-brother and the corruptness of society itself. Jack’s story is one of human perseverance and fortitude; it is a story of a man who somehow managed to survive a system that was completely against him.

“Nevertheless, the book gave Jack a feeling he had never had before, that the past was like a story, in which one thing led to another, and the world was not a boundless mystery, but a finite thing that could be comprehended. ”


This is a phenomenal story, and though that I’ve got hundreds of books I want to read in my lifetime, and little enough time to read them in, this is a book I will definitely be reading again in the future; it’s a story that I simply have to revisit regardless of its vast length. This is a book I just have to read again.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,482 reviews79k followers
April 9, 2019
This was incredible. After reading this for weeks, I'll need a bit to sort out my thoughts on this one. Review to come.

Also, how great is the feeling when you're the first person to check out a brand new replacement copy via the library?
Profile Image for Steven Medina.
204 reviews937 followers
July 26, 2020
Una de mis mejores lecturas del año.

Excelente libro con una narración y un contexto histórico que nos atrapa desde el primer momento. Antes de leer Los Pilares de la Tierra, tenía la percepción de que por ser un libro tan extenso la trama se desarrollaría lentamente, por lo que decidí leerlo solo los fines de semana. No saben la tortura que esa decisión significó; no porque me disgustará el libro, sino porque no quería parar de leer y no tenía el tiempo para hacerlo entresemana. Sin embargo, más allá de la página 700 logré encontrar un espacio y me devoré lo que faltaba en aproximadamente cuatro noches.

Este texto nos llama la atención desde la introducción. Allí, Ken Follett nos cuenta cómo llegó a crear esta historia, el riesgo al fracaso que tuvo que enfrentar por crear algo diferente a lo que estaba acostumbrado que eran los thrillers y la forma como llegó a transformar su interés por las catedrales y la Edad Media, en una obra que, como él mismo dice, pretende expresar los esfuerzos de la humanidad para construir iglesias cada vez más altas y bellas. Él no esperaba el éxito que tendría este libro, por lo que en esta ocasión la realidad superó la expectativa.

La historia se desarrolla en la Inglaterra del siglo XII, en una época donde se presentaron discusiones y batallas por el trono tras la muerte del rey Henry, debido a que Stephen se apoderó del trono, cuando legítimamente ese cargo debió ser ocupado por Maud, la hija mayor del rey Henry. Esta época es conocida como la Anarquía Inglesa y no es ficción del autor, porque ocurrió en la vida real, con la diferencia de que algunos eventos son cambiados para adaptar la historia y los personajes. Usando este contexto histórico como base, el autor desarrolla una nóvela centrándose en la construcción de una catedral que unirá y cambiará la vida de los individuos que protagonizan esta historia. Lo que inicialmente, parece la historia de un albañil que quiere lograr su sueño de construir una catedral, se convertirá en una guerra de poderes impresionante. La rivalidad entre quienes quieren construirla y los que se oponen es muy interesante y nos mantendrá enganchados todo el tiempo a pesar de sus más de 1300 páginas.

A pesar de que es una obra extensa, la prosa es tan agradable, sencilla y pulcramente estilizada, que no hay una sola página donde experimentemos fatiga o aburrimiento; y eso lo logra Follett, recurriendo al uso frecuente de conversaciones y narrando los acontecimientos desde los diferentes puntos de vista de los personajes. Además, como las descripciones son escasas hace que la lectura sea muy fluida todo el tiempo. Es tan fluida que si tuviéramos tiempo, sin ningún problema podríamos leerlo de corrido hasta finalizarlo. Sentiremos el mismo interés desde que empiezan los primeros capítulos presentando a algunos personajes, hasta cuando estamos a punto de finalizarlo. No puedo negar que en algunas partes es predecible, pero a pesar de ese detalle, no afecta el interés que sentimos por seguir leyendo. Esta situación se asemeja a cuando repetimos innumerables veces nuestras películas favoritas y a pesar de conocer de memoria hasta los diálogos, queremos seguir viéndolas para volverlas a disfrutar. Así es este libro, sospechamos lo que ocurrirá, el rol de cada quien y las decisiones que se tomarán, pero a pesar de eso seguiremos disfrutando cada maniobra de los personajes.

Todo el tiempo nos sentiremos inmersos en la Edad Media. Gracias a personajes como el prior Philip, el obispo Waleran, Tom Builder, Aliena, Jack Shareburg o William Hamleigh, conoceremos las costumbres, pensamientos, miedos y atrocidades que envolvían esa época. Sentiremos repudio por el abuso del poder, los saqueos y la falta de amor que era común en esos tiempos. Comprender la normalidad con la que se abandonaba los bebes recién nacidos o como disfrutaban ver pelear a muerte a un oso contra cinco perros asesinos, son solo algunas de las representaciones de la crueldad y la violencia que reinaba en ese periodo de la humanidad. Este tipo de libros nos ayudan a entender que aunque vivimos en una época llena de problemas, inseguridad y violencia, sí hemos evolucionado como sociedad y lo seguiremos haciendo de una forma progresiva. La lucha constante contra el racismo, contra el machismo o la proclamación de los derechos humanos son solo unas pequeñas muestras de que si se ha progresado; solo que casi siempre nos centramos más en lo negativo o en lo que carecemos, que en lo positivo que nos rodea.

En cuanto a los personajes me encantaron. Están tan bien creados, que da la impresión de que tuvieran vida y que ellos mismos fueran los que escribieran este libro. Son personajes con ambiciones muy marcadas, que lucharán y harán todo lo que está a su alcance para lograr sus objetivos. Sin embargo, son personajes que se sienten atrapados por las reglas y normas que existían en ese tiempo, por lo que en varias ocasiones los veremos impotentes y frustrados por los acontecimientos. Los personajes que más me gustaron fueron: El prior Philip, por su capacidad de resolver problemas y enfrentarse a sus enemigos que no querían dejarlo construir la catedral; Jack, por su inteligencia, valentía, y porque fue el personaje que Ken Follett eligió para representar su respeto y admiración por las catedrales; y Aliena, que a pesar de su fuerte historia de vida, de sufrir muchas injusticias y tener todo en su contra, siempre luchó para sobreponerse a las dificultades que se le cruzaban por su camino, impulsada por su juramento y por su instinto de supervivencia. Debido a la existencia de estos tres personajes, es que curiosamente a pesar de terminar el libro, no logré determinar el personaje principal. Es muy complicado definirlo, porque los tres tienen roles muy importantes y sin uno de ellos la historia se desequilibraría por completo.

Leer los Pilares de la Tierra origina un particular interés por la contemplación de las construcciones circundantes. El fenómeno no se limita a los templos, sino con cualquier edificación. Observar las columnas, muros, techos, etc., de los lugares por donde transitamos se convertirá en algo tan normal, que se sorprenderán preguntándose porque no se habían fijado en ello anteriormente. ¿Quizás por estar conectados todo el tiempo a un dispositivo o red social? , ¿Por la falta de costumbre de practicar la contemplación? ¿Por qué nos fijamos más en las personas que en los lugares? Las razones serán diferentes para cada quien. También entenderemos que en ese tiempo, ese tipo de proyectos no se finalizaban en seis meses o un año, sino que se prolongaban por varias décadas y llevaba toda una vida de sacrificio y trabajo constante, dependiendo naturalmente de los recursos permanentes de quien los financiaba.

En resumen, un libro con una narración maravillosa; con unos personajes que permanentemente rivalizarán entre sí; con un contexto histórico muy bien ejecutado que te sumerge realmente en esta época llena de maldad, dificultades, hambrunas, violaciones, trampas, injusticias y mucha enemistad; y con una catedral de por medio que será el resultado de tantos años de inconvenientes. Muy buen libro al que no le encuentro un solo defecto y el cual recomiendo a quienes quieran disfrutar de una excelente historia ambientada en la Edad Media. La calificación de cinco estrellas desde las primeras páginas ya la tenía clara.
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,723 followers
February 3, 2018
I read this out of order as once I read "World Without End," I was so captivated that I had to go back to read this one. It was good, but I much preferred "World Without End."

Follett creates such a remarkable world full of characters you love and you hate. And to think it takes place over 500 years ago... so many historical adventures, realities... I love the relationship people had with the church -- not so much from a religious perspective, but in how it defined every action and thought in their day. It was a powerful time period.

And when I think about what I would have done if I lived in that time period... not sure I would have survived very long.

The detail woven into these stories is exemplary. That's what makes his novels feel so magical and inviting.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
September 4, 2023
“The first casualty of a civil war was justice". Yep how true is that!!!!

Amidst so much Political upheaval, religious dominance, and economic poverty for many, one man dared have a dream. The impoverished Tom Builder wanted to build a Cathedral and appealing to the vanity of the clergy at the time, this seemed the most likely and comfortable of arrangements, where ambitions would form a partnership, and the lucrative outcome of the cathedral would bring stability of a different kind, but treachery in abundance.

However, this was never going to be an easy read, all you have to do is look at the size of the novel with its @1000 pages and you are set for a rollercoaster that does not shy away from the brutality of the age, the religious fervour of the populist, and the greed of mankind. Yes it is mostly about men!!! It is anarchy, it is a story where the savagery of ‘absolute power’ is not left to the imagination. A clash of state versus the church. Set in the 12th Century but authentic, compelling, and spellbindingly brilliant.

A crude summary of the plot (because it is impossible to capture everything with such an enormous book) so very high level.

The central story to the ‘Pillars of the earth’ is about the construction of a new Cathedral supported by those who want to build a thing of beauty to glorify God, and there are those who want to destroy the dream because they have different ambitions and plans.

While packed with lots of wonderful historical detail, an abundance of themes, it is the characterisation and character development that makes this such a towering classic from the humble stone mason to the tyrannical rulers, greedy aristocracy and the bonds and betrayal within family.

The book opens with a hanging and the pregnant woman’s curse placed on those that murdered the father of her unborn child. From then I was hooked, and it was this feeling of ‘fate’, punishment, and providence that set the tone of the novel that carried on through the stories of so many.

Review and Comments

A richly imagined story that combines real historical figures within the fictional world of Kingsbridge. A magnificent and sweeping tale from a superb author who animates the ugly side of humanity, brings to life the intrigue of the period, embraces the social prejudice, and uses some poignant themes, to deliver such a captivating story of greed, power, lust, betrayal, ambition, and religion.

A story of contrasts, not just good and evil, rich and impoverished, but also of honesty and deception, salvation and damnation, while love is threatened by envy, hatred, and resentment. Where the principled face the corrupt in this showcase of medieval treachery.

I read this over 3 weeks and there is that much going on in the book and it is structured in such a way that you could treat this as a series of novellas (6 to be exact), so I took a break between each section and read other books. I would recommend this approach if like me you are daunted by a 1000+ page book.

As far as historical fiction goes, ‘Pillars of the Earth’ is up there with the best of the HF books written, and as Follett says “Culture clash is terrific drama”, and this does not disappoint. To maintain the rhythm, keep the momentum going, and to hold the interest of the reader for so long, is nothing short of a triumph. In fact I was actually disappointed to have finished which speaks volumes for an oversized book!!!

Mesmerising, hypnotic, addictive, compelling, a book of medieval savagery and timeless beauty.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
March 12, 2015
Confession time: This is not a book I would have picked out for myself. First of all, look at the size of this kitten squisher! Second of all, Amanda's hate-filled review of it is one of my favorite reviews on Goodreads. However, it's one of my girlfriend's favorite books and when she suggested I give it a read, I knew what was good for me. Lucky for me, I enjoyed it.

Pillars of the Earth is a multigenerational tale about the construction of a cathedral in a fictitious English town in the 1100s. Many threads are followed for it's nigh-1000 page girth. Tom Builder goes from being an expectant father to a widow to a master builder. Philip becomes a prior and the ruler of Kingsbridge. And lets not forget Jack, Aliena, Richard, Waleran, that bastard William Hamleigh, or any of the many other characters.

Ken Follett was primarily known as a thriller writer before Pillars and it shows. Every time things appear to be going right for the good guys and it looks like the cathedral is back on track, another monkey wrench is thrown into the works. For a book with very little in the way of action, I was enthralled. You can squeeze a lot of plot complications in nearly 1000 pages and Follett jammed in as many as he could. I have to admire the kind of planning it took to write something like this.

As I said before, I always found the size of this thing daunting but I probably shouldn't have. It's a best seller, and best sellers aren't known for being difficult reads. Since Follett is a thriller writer, he tended to keep things to the point for the most part, though I thought he was ignoring Elmore Leonard's rule about not writing the parts people skip a few times.

I don't really want to say much about the plot for fear of spoiling anything. It's a long read but the ending is worth the time it takes to get there.

Parting thoughts (may contain spoilers):
- Tom Builder sure jumped into bed with Ellen pretty quickly. Agnes' body wasn't even cold yet.
- Lots of rape in the 1100's
- Since Kingsbridge is fictitious, does that make Pillars of the Earth historical fantasy?
- I really hate William Hamleigh.

Profile Image for Peter.
472 reviews2,555 followers
September 26, 2019
If you ever wanted to use the words Epic and Classic in a book review, The Pillars of the Earth is a book that upholds that accolade. It is a fabulous masterpiece of historical fiction, based in England in the 12th Century. The sense of time and place are vividly drawn and the fragility and harshness of life shadow each of the characters.

The array of characters are impressively developed, and with over 1000 pages in the novel, this becomes a generational journey spanning many decades and gives us a glimpse of how it was to grow and age in medieval England. Multiple threads tell the stories of individuals and families and their experiences of survival, jealousy, power and what life and neighbours can throw at them. All are explored with colourful detail, in an unforgiving period where right and wrong, and our sense of justice is tested to the limit.

The building of a cathedral at Kingsbridge is the cornerstone of this engrossing novel. It is a story that deals with the age-old battle of good versus evil, where evil manifests itself in men's hearts and ambitions, and where better to play that out but in the sight of God’s holy church. How religious affiliation can bring out the principles of some men and the skulduggery of others. What good men are forced to do and what bad men are capable of doing.

With a book, this long, praise has to be given to the fact that the momentum of the story never faltered and after investing so much time within its engrossing pages, it is difficult to come to terms with normality when the book is finished. I would highly recommend reading this book and it does occupy a place on my favourites shelf.
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews3,332 followers
March 2, 2022
Read this 1987 beloved beast by Ken Follett if you:

- Light up at books described as tomes, sagas, or epics. This is a long-ass story! The audiobook is 41 hours. FORTY ONE HOURS!!!

- Have an interest in 12th century architecture. But I mean really, who doesn’t?

- Want a reminder of what true villains look like. There are some super-evil mustache-twirling baddies here, like grade-a a-holes.

- Do anything Ms. Winfrey tells you to do. Shout out to Oprah’s Book Club 2007, y’all!

Don’t read it if you:

- Try to avoid reading about women being ravaged, both with their consent and without. Seriously, just way too many gang rape scenes here. We get it dude, dial it back a notch okay?

- Are triggered by animal cruelty. Hmm, let’s see, there’s a horse that gets its head whacked off with an axe, an extended scene about the stoning of a cat, and a dogs vs. bear fight for entertainment. And that’s just for starters.

- Don’t have the time to then go on and read two more long-ass sequels plus a long-ass prequel. Given all the raping and animal killing in this one I probably won’t move on to the next book, but Follett’s storytelling is so compelling I can certainly understand why millions of readers have.

Blog: https://www.confettibookshelf.com/
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
April 12, 2022
The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge, #1), Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by Welsh author Ken Follett, published in 1989, about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England.

It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket. The book traces the development of Gothic architecture out of the preceding Romanesque architecture, and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory and village against the backdrop of historical events of the time. A red-headed man is hanged for theft after being condemned by a priest, a knight, and a monk. His pregnant lover curses the men who condemned him, declaring that their children will be hanged, their enemies will prosper, and that they will live the rest of their lives with regret and sorrow. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال1997 میلادی

عنوان: س‍ت‍ون‍ه‍ای‌ زم‍ی‍ن‌؛ اث‍ر: ک‍ن‌ ف‍ال‍ت‌؛ مت‍رج‍م طاه‍ره‌ ص‍دی‍ق‍ی‍ان‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران: اه‍ل‌ ق‍ل‍م‌‏‫، سال1375؛ در سه جلد در1540ص؛ شابک9645568188؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران: روشنگران و مطالعات زنان‏‫، سال1390، شابک9789641940685؛ ‭‬موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده20م

‫داستان، با اعدام شخصی بی‌گناه، در سده ی دوازدهم میلادی، آغاز می‌شود؛ همسر اعدامی، شاهدان دروغین دادگاه را، نفرین می‌کند، و سپس ماجراهایی رمانتیک، و حماسه‌ ای در پی این ماجرا شکل می‌گیرد؛ کشیشی به نام «پدر فلیپ»، می‌کوشد کلیسای جامعی بسازد؛ نیروهای اهریمنی، و صاحبان قدرت و ثروت، در تلاش هستند، جلوی ساخت کلیسا را بگیرند، تا بدانوسیله نفوذ و قدرت خود را، به اثبات رسانده، و «پدر فلیپ» را، از سر راه خویش بردارند؛ این رمان داستان عشق و امید و تلاش است؛ نویسنده، در این داستان، ویران شدن، نابودن شدن، و باز از نو برخاستن، و با اتکا به امید، دوباره ساختن را حکایت می‌کند؛

نقل از متن جلد نخست: (پیشگفتار سال1123میلادی؛ پسرها صبح زود برای دیدن مراسم اعدام حاضر شدند؛ هنوز هوا تاریک بود که سه چهار نفر از آنها همچون گربه، با پوتینهای نمدی به آرامی خود را از آلونکهایشان بیرون کشیدند و به راه افتادند؛ لایه ی نازکی از برف تازه، مثل پوششی سفید رنگ، سراسر شهر کوچک را دربرگرفته بود و جای پای آنها بر روی آن نقش میبست؛ آنها از میان کپرهای چوبی نزدیک به هم و خیابانهای پوشیده از گِل یخ زده عبور کردند و به میدان بازار رسیدند، جاییکه چوبه ی دار در انتظار ایستاده بود؛ پسرها آنچه را که برای بزرگترها ارزشمند بود تحقیر میکردند؛ زیبایی را خوار میشمردند و نیکی را به سخره میگرفتند؛ از دیدن مردی افلیج هو میکشیدند، و اگر حیوانی زخمی میدیدند سنگسارش میکردند؛ وقتی صدمه ای به آنها وارد میشد به خود میبالیدند، و اثر زخم را با غرور نشان میدادند؛ به ویژه اگر کسی عضوی از بدنش قطع شده بود، مورد تحسین قرار میگرفت: پسری با انگشتی قطع شده میتوانست رهبر آنها باشد؛ خشونت را دوست داشتند؛ حاضر بودند مایلها بدوند تا صحنه ی خونریزی را ببینند؛ آنها هرگز مراسم اعدام را نادیده نمیگذاشتند

یکی از پسرها پای چوبه ی دار ادرار کرد؛ دیگری از پله ها بالا رفت، انگشتانش را بر گلو گذاشت و خودش را یکباره پایین انداخت، چهره اش را به تقلید از خفگی به طرزی مهیب پیچ و تاب داد؛ دیگران فریاد تحسین برکشیدند؛ دو سگ پارس کنان به میدان بازار دویدند؛ پسر جوانی بی ��روا شروع به خوردن سیبی کرد، یکی از پسرهای بزرگتر مشتی بر بینی او کوفت و سیب را از دستش قاپید؛ پسر کوچکتر خشم خود را با پرتاب سنگی تیز به طرف یکی از سگها تسکین داد و سگ زوزه کشان فرار کرد؛ اکنون کار دیگری نبود که به انجامش بیارزد، بنابراین همگی روی پیاده روی خشک رواق کلیسای بزرگ چمباتمه زدند و به انتظار رویدادی تازه ماندند؛ نور شمع از پشت پنجره های اطراف میدان سوسو میزد که نشان میداد توی خانه های چوبی و سنگی محکم صنعت کاران و بازرگانان ثروتمند، دختران کلفت و پادوهای آشپزخانه مشغول روشن کردن آتش و گرم کردن آب و پختن حلیم هستند؛ رنگ آسمان از سیاه به خاکستری گرایید؛ مردم شهر با سرهای خمیده از درگاههای کوتاه منزلهایشان بیرون آمدند، آنها خود را در جبّه های پشمی زبر و کلفت پوشانده بودند و لرزان از سرما برای برداشتن آب به سمت رودخانه میرفتند

اندکی بعد گروهی از مردان جوان شامل مهترها، کارگران و شاگردان صنعتگران با غرور قدم به میدان گذاشتند و پسربچه ها را با مشت و لگد از رواق کلیسا بیرون راندند، و خود به دیوار طاقهای سنگی کنده کاری شده تکیه زدند؛ آنها بدن خود را میخاراندند، روی زمین تف میانداختند و با اطمینانی آگاهانه درباره ی اعدام صحبت میکردند؛ یکی از آنها گفت: اگر بخت با او یار باشد به محض افتادن، گردنش میشکند، مرگی سریع و بیدرد: در غیر اینصورت همچنان که آویزان مانده است سرخ میشود و دهانش مانند ماهیِ از آب بیرون افتاده باز و بسته میشود تا اینکه خفه شود؛ دیگری گفت، چنین مردنی ممکن است به اندازه ی یک مایل راهپیمایی طول بکشد؛ سومی گفت: میتواند از آن هم بدتر باشد! او کسی را دیده بود که تا وقت مردن گردنش سی سانتی متر دراز شده بود؛ دسته ای از پیرزنان در طرف مقابل میدان با فاصله ای دور از مردان جوان ایستاده بودند، جوانانی که آمادگی داشتند جلوی مادربزرگهای خود کلماتی زشت بر زبان بیاورند

پیرزنان همیشه صبح زود از خواب برمیخاستند؛ گرچه دیگر فرزند کوچکی نداشتند تا موجب نگرانیشان شود؛ با اینحال اوّلین کسانی بودند که آتشهایشان را روشن میکردند، و کف تنورهایشان را جارو میزدند؛ رهبر شناخته شده ی آنها، بیوه «بروستر»، با اندامی عضلانی، در حالیکه بشکه ای آبجو را به راحتیِ حلقه ای که کودکان با چوب میگرداندند، به جلو میغلتاند، به آنها پیوست؛ هنوز درِ بشکه را برنداشته بود که مشتریان منتظر با کوزه و سطل دورش جمع شدند. مامورِ اعدامِ داروغه ی شهر دروازه ی اصلی را گشود و به کشاورزانی که در خانه های چهار طاقی پشت دیوار شهر سکنی داشتند اجازه ی دخول داد؛ برخی تخم مرغ و شیر و کره ی تازه برای فروش آورده بودند؛ عدّه ای برای خرید آبجو و نان آمده بودند و بعضی دیگر در میدان بازار به انتظار مراسم اعدام ایستادند

هر از گاه مردم همچون گنجشکهای محتاط، سرشان را بالا میبردند، و به قصری که در بالای شهر، روی تپّه قرار داشت، نگاه میکردند؛ آنها دودی را که به طور مداوم از آشپزخانه برمیخاست و شعله های نامنظم مشعلی که از پشت درز پنجره های باروی سنگی سرک میکشید، میدیدند؛ سپس هنگامی که خورشید در حال بیرون آمدن از پشت ابر ضخیم خاکستری بود، درهای بزرگ چوبی قصر باز شدند و گروه کوچکی بیرون آمدند؛ داروغه پیشاپیش بر اسبی سیاه و زیبا سوار بود و به دنبال او، یک گاری حرکت میکرد که گاوی آنرا میکشید و زندانی، دست بسته، بر آن سوار بود؛ پشت سر گاری سه مرد اسب میراندند، گرچه چهره هایشان از آن فاصله دیده نمیشد، لباسهایشان نشان میداد که یکی شوالیه، یکی کشیش و دیگری راهب است؛ دو مرد مسلّح در پشت این گروه در حرکت بودند؛ همگی آنها در دادگاه ایالتی که روز قبل در شبستان کلیسا برگزار شده بود حضور داشتند؛ کشیش، دزد را حین ارتکاب جرم گرفته بود؛ راهب جام نقره ای صومعه را شناسایی کرده بود، شوالیه که ارباب دزد بود، فرار او را شهادت داده و داروغه او را به مرگ محکوم کرده بود؛ همچنانکه آنها به آرامی از تپه پایین میآمدند، سایر اهالی شهر در اطراف چوبه ی دار جمع میشدند

شهروندانِ با نفوذ: قصاب، نانوا، دو دباغ، دو آهنگر، چاقوفروش و پیکانساز، همگی با همسرانشان، آخرین کسانی بودند که به میدان آمدند؛ حالت جمعیت عجیب بود؛ آنها اغلب از مراسم اعدام لذت میبردند؛ معمولاً زندانی به دزدی متهم بود و آنها با حرارتِ مردمی که داراییهایشان به سختی به دست آمده است، از دزدان نفرت داشتند؛ امّا این دزد با دیگران تفاوت داشت. هیچکس نمیدانست او کیست و از کجا آمده است؛ او چیزی از آنها ندزدیده بود، بلکه از صومعه ای که بیست مایل با آنجا فاصله داشت، جامی جواهر نشان را سرقت کرده بود؛ جامی آنقدر گرانبها که عملاً فروش آن غیرممکن مینمود؛ این دستبرد با سرقت یک تکه ران خوک یا کاردی جدید یا کمربندی خوب که کمبودش مشکلاتی فراهم میکرد، تفاوت داشت

آنها نمیتوانستند از فردی که جرمی چنین بیهوده را مرتکب شده بود، متنفر باشند؛ هنگامی که زندانی وارد میدان شد صدای چند سوت و هلهله ی استهزاآمیز شنیده شد، امّا دشنامها از ته قلب نبود و تنها پسربچه ها او را با حرارت مسخره میکردند؛ اکثر مردم شهر در دادگاه حضور نداشتند، زیرا دادگاهها در ایام غیرتعطیل برگزار میشد و آنها مجبور بودند در تلاش معاش باشند، بنابراین این اوّلین باری بود که دزد را میدیدند؛ او جوانی بیست تا سی ساله مینمود، قد و قواره اش معمولی بود، امّا ظاهری کاملاً غریبه داشت؛ پوستش به سفیدی برفِ روی شیروانیها بود، چشمان سبز شفاف شگفت آوری داشت و موهایش به رنگ هویج پوست کنده بود؛ به چشم دختران زشت آمد؛ پیرزنان به حالش تاسف خوردند و پسرکان آن قدر خندیدند که به زمین افتادند؛ داروغه چهره ای آشنا بود، امّا سه مرد دیگر که سرنوشت دزد را رقم زده بودند، غریبه بودند؛ شوالیه، با اندامی فربه و موهای زرد، آشکارا شخص مهمی به نظر میرسید، چرا که اسبی جنگی را میراند، حیوانی عظیم الجثه که به اندازه ی درآمد دهسال یک نجار ارزش داشت؛ راهب بسیار پیرتر بود، شاید پنجاه ساله یا بیشتر

مردی بلندقد و لاغر اندام که با شانه هایی فروافتاده روی زین نشسته بود، گویی زندگی چون باری خسته کننده بر دوشش سنگینی میکند؛ شگفت آورتر از همه کشیش بود، مردی جوان با بینی نوک تیز و موهای صاف و مشکی، جامه ای سیاه بر تن داشت و بر اسبی شاه بلوطی سوار بود. او نگاهی هوشیار و خطرناک داشت، همچون گربه ای سیاه که میتوانست بوی بچه موشی را از لانه استشمام کند. پسرکی کوچک، با نشانه گیری دقیق، بر زندانی آب دهان انداخت؛ تیر خوبی بود و میان دو ابروی او نشست؛ او نفرینی نثار کرد و به طرف پسرک خیز برداشت، امّا طنابهایی که او را به کناره های گاری بسته بود مانع حرکتش شد. کلماتی که به کار برد فرانسوی بود، زبان لردها؛ آیا او از اشرافزادگان بود؟ یا از کشورش دور افتاده بود؟ کسی نمیدانست؛ گاری زیر چوبه ی دار ایستاد؛ جلاد در حالیکه حلقه ی طناب را در دست داشت روی آن رفت

زندانی شروع به تقلاّ کرد؛ پسرها غریو شادی سر دادند، اگر زندانی آرام میماند آنها ناامید میشدند؛ حرکات جوا��ک توسط طنابهایی که به دست و پایش بسته بودند، محدود شده بود، امّا سرش را به این طرف به آن طرف میچرخاند و خود را از حلقه ی طناب کنار میکشید؛ پس از لحظه ای مامور اعدام که مردی قوی هیکل بود قدمی به عقب گذاشت و مشتی بر شکم زندانی کوبید؛ مرد دولا شد، به خود پیچید و جلاد طناب را بر گردنش انداخت و گره اش را محکم کرد؛ سپس روی زمین پرید و طناب را محکم کشید و سر دیگر طناب را به قلابی در پای چوبه ی دار بست؛ نقطه ای بی بازگشت؛ هرچه زندانی بیشتر تلاش میکرد، تنها مرگش را سرعت میبخشید؛ مردان مسلّح پاهای زندانی را باز کرده و او را تنها روی گاری رها کردند، دستانش از پشت بسته شده بود؛ سکوت بر جمعیت حکمفرما شد؛ اغلب در این لحظات اغتشاشی ایجاد میشد: مادر زندانی جیغ میکشید و یا همسرش کاردی بیرون میآورد و به جایگاه میدوید و در آخرین لحظات تلاش میکرد زندانی را نجات دهد

گاهی اوقات زندانی از خداوند طلب بخشش میکرد، یا بر دژخیمانش دشنامی میفرستاد، که خون را در رگها منجمد میکرد؛ مردان مسلّح اکنون در طرفین چوبه دار ایستاده و خود را آماده ی مقابله با هر حادثه ای کرده بودند؛ در این هنگام زندانی شروع به آواز خواندن کرد؛ او صدایی مردانه، زیر و بلند و بسیار صاف داشت؛ کلمات به زبان فرانسه ادا میشد، امّا حتی کسانی که به آن زبان آشنا نبودند، میتوانستند از روی آهنگ گله آمیز و شیرین آن بگویند که از غم و نابودی سخن میگوید: «چکاوکی در دام، شیرینتر از همیشه ، نوا سر داد ، پنداشتی ، با بالهایِ محکمِ آوازش ، از پنجه هایِ نامهربانِ دام ، خواهد رست.»؛ همچنانکه آواز میخواند مستقیما به شخصی در میان جمعیت نگاه میکرد؛ به تدریج فضایی در اطراف آن شخص شکل گرفت و همه توانستند دخترک را ببینند؛ او حدودا پانزده ساله بود؛ هنگامی که مردم به او نگاه کردند، در عجب ماندند چطور قبلاً متوجه او نشده بودند؛ گیسوانی به رنگ قهوه ای تیره، بلند، پرپشت و زیبا داشت که روی پیشانی پهنش ریخته بود؛ اندامی موزون، لبانی پر و دهانی شهوانی

زنان پیر متوجه کمر پهن و سینه های سنگینش شدند، و به این نتیجه رسیدند که باردار است، و حدس زدند زندانی پدر فرزندِ تولد نیافته ی اوست؛ امّا دیگران به جز چشمانش، متوجه چیز دیگری نشدند؛ امکان داشت او زیبا شمرده شود، امّا چشمانی جدّی و فرو رفته به رنگ طلایی داشت؛ چشمانش ته قلب انسان را میبینند و آدمی از ترس اینکه راز و رمزش برملا نشود چشم برمیگرداند؛ جامه ای ژنده بر تن داشت و اشک روی گونه های لطیفش میغلتید؛ راننده ی گاری با حالتی منتظر به مامور اعدام نگاه کرد؛ جلاد در انتظار دستور به داروغه نگریست. کشیش جوان با حالتی منحوس بیصبرانه به پهلوی داروغه زد، امّا داروغه توجهی نکرد؛ او زندانی را آزاد گذاشت تا به خواندن ادامه دهد؛ صدای دلنواز مرد زشت روی با مکثی هولناک، مرگ را معطل نگاه داشته بود: «در گرگ و میش سحرگاهان، صید در چنگال صیاد، و چکاوک در دام؛ همسخن مرگ ، آه، مرگش نشسته برابر، آنک، پرنده و انسان، خونهاشان، به جویبارِ جاریِ مردن، خواهد پیوست، امّا پرنده ی آواز، لیکن پرنده ی فریاد، در آسمان سبزِ همیشه، پرواز میکند، زیرا، مرگ پایان کبوتر نیست.»؛

هنگامیکه آواز پایان گرفت داروغه به مامور اعدام نگاه کرد و سر تکان داد؛ جلاد فریاد کشید: «هی!» و با طناب به کفل گاو شلاّق زد؛ ارابه ران همزمان شلاّقش را به صدا درآورد؛ گاو جلو رفت، زندانی که روی گاری ایستاده بود تلوتلو خورد، گاو گاری را به جلو کشید؛ طناب کشیده شد و گردن دزد با صدایی شکسته شد و زندانی میان زمین و هوا معلّق ماند؛ جیغی کشیده شد و همه به دخترک نگاه کردند؛ صدای جیغ از او نبود، بلکه از همسر چاقو فروش بود که کنار او ایستاده بود، و به دخترک اشاره میکرد؛ دخترک در مقابل چوبه ی دار زانو زده و دستانش را به حالت نفرین به سوی آسمان گشوده بود؛ همگی به حقانیت این اعدام مظنون بودن��؛ پسران کوچک وحشتزده به او مینگریستند

دختر، چشمان نافذ و طلایی خود را به سوی سه غریبه، شوالیه، راهب و کشیش گرداند، سپس با آهنگی پرطنین و کلماتی وحشتناک نفرین خود را بر زبان آورد: «نفرین من همراه با بیماری و غم، با گرسنگی و درد بر شما باد؛ خانه هایتان در آتش بسوزد و طناب دار به گردن کودکانتان بیفتد؛ دشمنانتان کامیاب شوند و پیریتان همراه پشیمانی و اندوه باشد و در عذاب و ناپاکی بمیرید...» همچنان که دخترک آخرین کلماتش را بر زبان میآورد دستش را داخل کیسه ای که روی زمین در کنارش بود فروکرد و جوجه خروسی زنده را بیرون کشید و با حرکتی سریع با کاردی که در دست داشت سر خر��س را برید؛ در حالیکه خون از سر جدا شده ی خروس فواره میزد، خروس بدون سر را به طرف کشیش مو سیاه پرتاب کرد

خروس به او نرسیده بر زمین افتاد، امّا خون به سر تا پای او و راهب و شوالیه که در دو طرفش ایستاده بودند، پاشیده شد؛ سه مرد با نفرت خود را کنار کشیدند، امّا خون به سرتا پایشان پاشیده شد و صورتهایشان را آلوده و جامه هایشان را لکه دار کرد؛ دخترک چرخید و شروع به دویدن کرد؛ جمعیت در مقابلش راه گشود و پشت سرش بسته شد؛ برای چند لحظه محوطّه را هرج و مرج فرا گرفت؛ نهایتا داروغه توجه مردان مسلح را به خود جلب کرد و با عصبانیت به آنها فرمان داد دخترک را تعقیب کنند؛ آنها در میان جمعیت شروع به تقلاّ کردند؛ با خشونت زن و مرد و بچه را از سر راه خود کنار میزدند، امّا دخترک در یک چشم به هم زدن ناپدید شده بود؛ گرچه داروغه دست از جستجوی خود برنمیداشت، امّا میدانست او را پیدا نخواهد کرد؛ داروغه با انزجار برگشت؛ شوالیه، راهب و کشیش فرار دختر را ندیده بودند؛ آنها هنوز به چوبه ی دار مینگریستند؛ داروغه مسیر نگاه آنها را دنبال کرد؛ دزدِ مرده در انتهای طناب آویزان بود؛ چهره ی جوان و رنگ پریده اش هم اکنون به آبی میگرایید، و در زیر جسدش که به آرامی تاب میخورد خروس بدون سر، در حالیکه نیمه جانی داشت، روی برف خون آلود دور دایره ای ناموزون پرپر میزد.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 20/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 22/01/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Adina .
890 reviews3,543 followers
June 7, 2023
OMG, this book was HUGE!! I do not mind reading big books if I like them (e.g. Shogun). The pillars felt so, so long because it was boring (for me anyways). Not because there is no action. There is plenty of it. The reason i was bored is that I couldn't care less about the characters. Any of them. The author did not succeed to make me like any or become interested in their destiny.

What I also found peculiar with this book was that each chapter was gripping in itself but after finishing it I did not feel the need to start the next one. There was some sort of resolution in each chapter which, in my opinion, is not the way to keep someone on the edge of the seat, reading. In order to finish this huge book I wanted to not be able to let it from my hand. I read some reviews and it seems some liked this kind of writing.

Moreover, the writing is not much. I really do not believe it is worth calling this a classic of historical fiction. Also, the dialog does not feel from the 12th century, it is pretty much modern.

Finally, the whole plot is way too melodramatic.

I learned some interesting historical info about the period and about building churches, not that i needed that in my life. It was entertaining to read the book at times but I think there will be no more Ken Follet for me.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,821 reviews12.8k followers
May 30, 2019
Ken Follett leaves his comfort zone with this epic tome, which highlights the development and building of a massive cathedral in Kingsbridge, a rural English community. Follett takes the reader back to the 12th century, where Tom Builder is looking for work. After the death of his wife in childbirth, Tom leads his family from town to town hoping for employment scraps to ensure his brood has a means to survive. Meanwhile, a young monk by the name of Phillip travels to Kingsbridge on business, only to show his leadership skills and curry favour with some of the other monks, earning himself the role of Prior. This local leadership role could prove important, as the priory is badly in need of repair. When news of the king’s death passes throughout the kingdom, there are whispers surrounding the rightful succession, which leads to a civil war and puts the priory’s plans in a precarious position. King Stephen takes his place on the throne, though a coup is in the works. When Tom makes his way to Kingsbridge, he reports some news and pledges loyalty to Stephen, which may work to the benefit of everyone. A fire leaves the local cathedral destroyed, though Tom is able to begin creation of a place of worship for the monks. Armed with his past experience and work ethic, Tom is permitted to build a new cathedral, grand and elegant in nature. It will, however, take years to complete, as the political and economic situation in Kingsbridge continues to evolve. The story continues with the evolution of Kingsbridge as a local hub, creating much needed markets and economic fluctuation in order to sustain the costly building that is being erected. There are some who wish to see Kingsbridge falter, not the least of whom is the recent earl of Shiring. Tom and his family continue to toil on the cathedral, though they, too, are struck with calamitous news on more than one occasion. Prior Phillip seeks to forge onwards, though must use his theological knowledge and guidance to shepherd the people of Kingsbridge towards the Word rather than temptation. As the narrative continues to evolve, layers of new characters emerge in this multi-generational story, all of whom bring their own struggles to the forefront, while one, looming theme binds it all together. Full of forks in the story, Follett has undertaken a massive project with this book, which is only the first of the trilogy. Patient readers will lose themselves in this epic tome, only to demand more by the time they reach the end (though one cannot fault them if they need a breather!).

As early as the preface, Follett agrees that this was likely his most difficult literary project to date, tapping into a genre and backstory with which he has no experience. Follett lays the groundwork for an amazing series here, fleshing out countless characters, storylines, and developments while never forgetting to overarching idea of the Kingsbridge Cathedral. The scores of characters who grace the page do not receive equal representation throughout the chapters, though there is an evolution of central players as the story moves forward and time passes, layering generations atop and beside one another. Phillip and Tom remain the central characters whose ideas prove to be stalwart themes throughout, but the reader is graced with the likes of Alfred and Jack, offspring (literal and through marriage) of Tom, who seek to continue the build for as long as it will take. There is also Aliena, who sought to hold onto the earldom for her brother and whose business sense brought economic growth to the region. Weighing in on the antagonist side of the ledger would surely be William Hamleigh and Bishop Waleran, whose plotting seeks to bring Phillip and the cathedral to its knees. The interaction between these characters enriches the novel and keeps the reader wanting more. Some have criticised the book for being too long or too detailed, going so far as to inject the words “slow” and “boring” into their comments. I would disagree with that assessment, for this is not the type of novel that can be both rich and brief. The slow and methodical development of characters and storyline takes time and, I would venture to surmise, all would be lost with brief parachuted mentions throughout the narrative. Follett purposely takes the reader on an epic journey and that is not to be curtailed to compete with the ‘slap together’ mass printings of novels today. There will be some whose attention span cannot last the entire novel, which is no criticism. Leave it to those with the patience to take the journey to express excitement about it in hopes of filling in the gaps. There is still much to go in Kingsbridge and its cathedral, the true lifeblood of the novel. The end of this piece is but a resting place for many more adventures, sure to arise if readers pledge to continue reading the other two novels in the trilogy. I am packed and ready to go, Mr. Follett. Let the journey recommence with the next novel.

Kudos, Mr. Follett, for stepping out of your espionage thrillers to bring us this wonderful piece. I can admit that I am fully enthralled and I want to see what you have in store for us and the townsfolk of Kingsbridge.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,443 followers
August 2, 2023
2, 73 steluțe.

Constructori de catedrale, cavaleri, cerșetori, tîlhari, sex neîngrădit, pelerinaje în Europa, la Compostela, la Saint-Denis, război, dueluri, trădări, personaje cu suflete noroioase, posedate de diavol: cam așa aș rezuma, prin cîteva „cuvinte-cheie”, Stâlpii pământului...

Ken Follett a mutat cîteva personaje din secolul XX în secolul al XII-lea și le-a pus pe toate să vorbească aceeași limbă: engleza. E simplu, dar greșit. Pe la 1130, nobilii (elita, adică) se înțelegeau în normandă, un dialect francez (langue d'oïl), iar poporul de rînd vorbea așa-zisa old english. Sigur, mulți erau deja bilingvi. Dar acastă realitate nu transpare cîtuși de puțin din romanul lui Follett. Indivizii nu au nici o problemă de înțelegere, pricep instantaneu tot ce rostesc ceilalți.

Nu e suficient să menționezi naufragiul Corabiei albe, the White ship (în care a pierit William Adelin, urmașul regelui Henric I), moartea la 1 decembrie 1135 a numitului rege și perioada de „anarhie” care a urmat (lupta dintre adepții reginei Maud / Mathilda și adepții regelui Stephen) pentru a avea un roman cu adevărat istoric. E necesară o acuratețe pe care prozatorul britanic nu o respectă. Voi aminti un singur amănunt. Lordul William Hamleigh, un smintit și un sangvinar, aflat în catedrala Kingsbridge (vechea catedrală, nu cea nouă, proiectată și construită de Jack), privește cu jind spre Aliena (femeia care l-a respins ca soț) și observă răpit „coama ei din păr negru, cîrlionțat”. În Evul Mediu, nici o femeie nu ieșea din casă cu părul descoperit, purta o glugă sau un acoperămînt, o bonetă. Faptul e cu atît mai puțin probabil cu cît Aliena se afla într-o biserică.

Infinit mai multă atenție la amănunte găsim, de pildă, în Ivanhoe, romanul lui Walter Scott, a cărui acțiune se petrece cu 50 de ani mai tîrziu. Să acceptăm că toate astea sînt „licențe poetice” și că pe autor l-a interesat în primul rînd acțiunea. Și, har Domnului, acțiune găsim din belșug, chiar mai multă decît era nevoie. Violuri, sex sălbatic în pădure (și în timpul iernii), intrigi, conspirații, iubiri neîmpărtășite, brutalitate, trădări, sfîrtecări nemiloase, intestine revărsate pe podea etc.

Din păcate, pe Ken Follett credibilitatea acțiunilor nu-l prea interesează. Și nici psihologia personajelor. E după Crăciun. Agnes, soția lui Tom Constructorul, tocmai a murit la naștere, a născut un băiat. Bărbatul ei a săpat o groapă cu „o lopată de lemn uzată” (în pămîntul înghețat), a pus-o în mormînt. Bănuim că are sufletul distrus, inima zdrobită și că nu mai gîndește limpede, dar oboseala și emoțiile îl răpun. Ațipește. Exact în acest moment, o pădureancă, îmbrăcată doar într-o pelerină, îl supune unui viol sistematic. Tom Constructorul gîndește că e vorba de un înger și, cum îngerii nu pot fi refuzați, „cedează”. Pădureanca nu poartă nimic pe dedesubt, își ridică pur și simplu pelerina, încît Tom îi poate pipăi „sînii moi și dornici cu sfîrcurile deja întărite”. Firește, puterea de combustie a lui Ellen, mama lui Jack, înfrînge frigul iernii și durerea lui Tom.

Indivizii din Stîlpii pămîntului sînt fie excesiv de buni (ca abatele Philip din Gwynedd, de exemplu, care e și excesiv de naiv), fie excesiv de răi (precum William Hamleigh sau diabolicul Waleran Bigod). Într-un cuvînt, nici un personaj nu e normal.

Dar cei care doresc acțiune trepidantă, răsturnări de situație și pedepsirea exemplară a celor răi nu se vor împiedica de aceste nevinovate observații...
Profile Image for Shannon.
901 reviews235 followers
August 8, 2014
A tapestry of medieval cathedrals centered around an epic drama and some would term it melodrama but that's open to debate.

Ken Follet actually wanted to write this book years before it was published. But his agent told him to build up his base of fans by writing several more thrillers. His EYE OF THE NEEDLE pushed him up to the best seller list.

At a later point, after writing those novels and studying medieval cathedral architecture, Follet got to write his 900 page novel centering around the British dispute of the crown between Queen Maude and King Stephen; these were the contestants who preceded Henry II, who is best known for his colorful History with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lion Hearted and the gray King John.

Story centers around several commoner types, with a few exceptions, whose lives intertwine in the eventual struggle to build a glorious cathedral. Without revealing too much and generalizing this story has: lurid scenes of lust, violence, intrigue, political disputes, wars, loves gained, loves lost, main characters dying, a child abandoned at birth and much more. And, to enthusiasts of History, it even teaches readers of the period.

Highly advised reading, even if the dialogue is a bit informal and the structure sometimes isn't as focused as it could be. If those two points don't bother you, this is a great book.

And, for those too lazy to read the novel, there's now a miniseries.

Profile Image for Lucy.
475 reviews604 followers
December 4, 2008
I hated this book. Let's just get that out of the way so there is no confusion later on.

Ken Follett describes a gloomy, dismal, nearly barbaric society whose citizens' greatest concerns seem to be their egos and their lust for power and control. He uses the building of the great European cathedrals as the impetus for his story; the magnificent structures were made possible through trickery, lies, greed, criminal acts and selfish ambition. Forget about the Glory of God...that's just history's cover story. But Follett's cathedral in Pillars of the Earth serves as much purpose as the hospital in the soap opera General Hospital. He focused much more on the personal drama, romance, and rivalry of his weak characters. This was historical fiction a la Daytime television.

The story didn't even feel historical. Follett tried. He mentioned eating with a knife almost as frequently as the tunics his characters wore (Setting it apart from modern day. We no longer wear tunics, you know). But everything felt too modern - their speech, their attitudes, even their relationships. I read the mammoth 1,000 page story quickly but I can just as easily get sucked into Guiding Light. The plots are interesting enough...just mind-numbing and unlikely. For example, the Alfred-Aliena-Jack love triangle had my interest but then the high drama of Aliena's secret pregnancy followed by her truly unbelievable delivery (during the same time the ceiling of the cathedral fell....underneath the stone rubble....really?) along side Jack's odyssey was just too much. And could someone please just get kill William Hamleigh before he rapes someone else? (They don't. The reader is required to experience one too many grotesque acts by an inhumane man who supposedly fears hell. Once was MORE than enough, Ken. We get it. He's baaaaaad).

Even if there is some historical truth to the background story - the difficulty in building a cathedral (oh yeah..remember that?), it is overshadowed by all the non-historical melodrama. I don't think Follett did that period of history any favors by making it all seem so salacious.

Here Be Dragons does a much better job of storytelling the tumultuous middle ages. Read it if you want to experience the pettiness of power. I'd even recommend Philippa Gregory's novels over this. It was about 900 pages too long.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,256 followers
September 28, 2017
A monumental undertaking! An achievement to last the ages!

Want to know how it feels to build a cathedral? Read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. By the time you're done reading this huge book you will feel as if you've spent the better part of your life hoisting brick and laying mortar.


The details are marvelous and intricate. Follett obviously did a lot of research in order to construct this mammoth book. This is reminiscent of Moby Dick in the minutia of its attention to detail. It acts almost as a blueprint or at least a treatise on the craft of construction.

Then there's the story, too. All around the base of this mammoth project is an intriguing and captivating love story. It's a strange sort of romance that'll sweep up most readers...sweep them up like a broom down a bowling alley lane. For me, it went on and on, and frankly, it dragged, which kinda killed the romance after a while.

The length of The Pillars of the Earth is perhaps a bit too long. I don't mind an epic, like the Russian classics, but this one exhausted me at times. Follett's publisher let him off the leash with this one and he ran with it as far as he could. After writing previous money-making books for his publisher on the promise that he would be allowed to create his baby, this behemoth known as The Pillars of the Earth was that baby, and it's a tubber!
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 18 books1,596 followers
October 24, 2019
I read this one awhile ago. I remember it as one of my top five reads of all time even though I mostly dwell within the mystery/thriller genre. I'm hot and cold on Ken Follett books but this one is a wonderful read. I am always on the look out for a book that first and foremost immerses me in the Fictive Dream and this is one of them. And it's an epic so the ride was long and comfortable. My world fell away as I entered this one.
Highly recommend.
David Putnam author of the Bruno Johnson series.
68 reviews10 followers
May 11, 2008
"Pillars of the Earth" is a very long book. It's got a lot of soap-opera-like twists and turns - no amnesia, but just about everything else, including mistaken identities, illicit marriages, illicit lack of marriage, illegitimate children, questionable parentage, love triangles, revenge, greed, power, a few murders, rape, witches, politics, knights, swords and horsies. OK, that last bit is not so soap-opera-like. There's also lots and lots of architecture. And it's a very long book.

Main story follows a single family of stone masons for (roughly) three generations, and the extended families associated with re-marrying, etc. Around this family revolves an aspiring monk/prior, a powerful but morally questionable bishop, a ruthless Earl (title, not name), and several kings. The thing is, even with all the re-marrying and such, there are so many evolving inter-relationships between these main characters as the struggle for political power unfolds, and of course everybody grows up, has children, etc - that EVERYTHING seems to happen to this small group of people. And just when you think things have settled down for a while, something else happens, or attempts to happen. And these things keep happening for approximately 980 pages.

Along the way, you learn a lot about medieval culture - particularly the role of religion, the political power of a monestary, priory, or diocese - how life is funded, and just how much it sucks to be a serf. There's also quite a bit of focus on the reason for, and the means to, building cathedrals - Follett muses in his Foreward that one of the things he never could understand is why people in such destitute times would have put so much energy into buildings of such scale, and this book addresses that. You also learn a lot about architecture and the evolution of cathedral-building. I can also now tell you the difference between a nave, chancel, transept, cloister, and clerestory. Oh, and probably 7 different words for "horse".

Really though, I very much enjoyed it, despite its very lengthy nature. Very full of words. Long. Not a day went by I didn't read at least 50 pages (note - at that rate, it will still take about 3 weeks to finish).
The building is a constant, its a reason to keep the central family of masons from wandering off and having more illicit marriages, and its a reason for the ongoing political power struggles. It's essential, but it's not distracting, and the cathedral is not the focus. The people are. They're engaging, you feel for them, you assign labels (good, evil) you change labels several times (he's pretty self-serving and conniving for a "good" guy), and you constantly wonder just what more can possibly happen to these people. There's also an underlying mystery that keeps you wondering... right up until 100 pages too soon.

My only complaint is this - the big climax occurs, the mystery is revealed, it all comes together - and there are still 100 pages to go. The last part of the wrap-up, the rise and fall, takes a while, has an interesting but probably unnecessary historically accurate reference to English church vs. king to give the whole novel an air of "this could have really happened in some obscure English medieval village somewhere, I wonder which cathedral this is supposed to be? Can I go see the real thing?" But it loses momentum right at the very end. Loose ends nicely tied up, but it wasn't the gripping page turner it had been in the first 900 pages. By that time, though, you've got so few pages in your right hand you just keep going because the end is in sight.
Profile Image for Luffy (Oda's Version).
765 reviews760 followers
December 16, 2020
The Pillars Of The Earth is a curious beast. Before writing this review, I read a few reviews others have posted, specially those who had rated it one star. This book made me miserable and provided me with a fleeting enjoyment, probably a feeling associated with junkies. Unlike most long books, I can't fault Follet for stretching out his story with filler and padding. In fact, most of my decision for rating the book 4 stars comes from the fact that most chapters feel integral to the book.

The major divergence with many fans is what is balefully called the collateral damage generally, in the book. There is too much suffering. The numbers are only partly the reason for my distaste. It's not also that true justice and ample revenge was late in coming - in my opinion it never did - it's also the senselessness of the violence. The fact that we're supposed to shrug this off and put our onus on the main characters' particular saga against William Hamleigh intensified this malaise. This reminded me of bloody books of the YA genre that I've read. Exampli Gratia would be the 5th Wave, where most of humanity was wiped out in days and civilization was uprooted like that. To temper the blow of savagery, maybe, the character Jack, in the presence of the monk Phillip is made to wonder about reality in the future, where everything would be better. Allow me to scoff.

This book possesses flaws from both the grimmest of realistic books, and the fluffiest of escapist ones. The suffering goes on and on, more than the hanging scenes - or rather scenery - in the Game Of Thrones books. But the invincibility of the main characters in such a feral environment, the serendipitous pairing of the two major personages, Jack and Aliena, the fulfillment of a desperate oath, the selective trait whereby most of the good guys have a high IQ, the parable like twist where the wicked are undone by the very victims they helped populate, all of this result in a book that I don't like. The reasons of my respect for this book are themselves quite unsound. The ease of the writing, the uncomplicated, two dimensional characters, and the suspenseful exposure to danger between such characters are what made me feel hypocritical to rate the book 2 stars. That's a rating I would give, but I cannot ignore the reluctant pleasure the book gave me. It's a book I will never ever touch, as it's one in a long line of disillusionment and disappointments in my recent experiences as a reader. I celebrate, hail, and acknowledge the reviews of people who have rated the book one star, and I envy their immunity to the rural and cynical charms of it.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
November 13, 2019
This is an amazing novel, A 5 Star Historical Fiction read
A lengthy novel at over 900 pages and not for the faint hearted and yet the story moves at a surprising quick pace. The characters are so well portrayed and engaging that you cant wait to turn the pages to unravel their fates. I loved the twists and turns of this story and as historical fiction goes this is among the best I have read as the research is excellent and the sense of time and place so real and vivid.

Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. I never thought I would read a 900 page novel on the building of a cathedral but the plot is so compelling as it spans 40 years of social and political upheaval and we see how church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. Ken Follett has written a novel that entertains and presents an amazing sense of time and place.

A memorable Novel and certainly one for my real life bookshelf.
Profile Image for Kay.
197 reviews373 followers
November 27, 2014
How does one review a book that one cannot even describe?

So many times after gushing about how good Pillars was, people ask me, What’s it about?

And I, swirling in the happy aftermath of a mind so blown away that it’s still traveling near the speed of light, struggle to gather what’s left of analytical thinking and dumbly blurt, “Um, it’s about building this cathedral…”

Way to not to sell a book.

I still have trouble really describing Pillars in a way that satisfies. Because while it is about building a cathedral, it’s about so much more. It’s about love, hate, sacrifice, duty, honor, sorrow, ambition, dreams… It’s about cold, hard life in the Middle Ages during decades of civil unrest where both good and bad people, downtrodden and as hungry as they are, still dream and compete and seek a sense of accomplishment in their lives.

People like you and me, just some centuries and a culture apart.

And like life, not everything is pleasant.

There are many ups and downs in the novel, so many that you learn to brace yourself for the worst when someone emerges victorious because you know that there will be payback. The characters go through a lot of hardships, and it’s pretty darn painful to read. The devastation that Prior Phillip felt when some part of his cathedral project was foiled is just as heartbreaking as the physical violation of Aliena’s body.

On the flip side, when the characters felt joy, it was extremely acute. When Tom finally landed a job, I breathed a sigh of relief. When Aliena got revenge on the priest who was supposed to “take care” of her father’s money, I felt a ruthless surge of satisfaction. It’s like I’m with these characters, that they are real and I am next to them. Their life is not a bucket full of cotton candy. It’s bitter, vile, and hard; but it’s also sweet, gentle, and satisfying in turn.

Pillars does dramatize the lives of these characters by placing them in a zero sum system; when one gains, the other has to lose. What resulted was an intricate web between the characters, some more attached to one than the other. Each move that one character made had a profound effect on the other. While this may have been contrived for some, I found it fascinating to follow these lives and see how much they crisscross and tangle. The concept that every action has consequences is something that is definitely fleshed out in Pillars, which I think is a life lesson that not many people dwell on.

Despite their differences, what every character had in common was that the thread of their lives all intersect at the focal point of this one cathedral. Every significant action in the novel is somehow directly or indirectly connected to the construction of this cathedral.

And my, what a construction project it is to build a cathedral! Ken Follett really studied up on this subject and did a fantastic job depicting the grandeur and openness of cathedrals. Cathedrals really are complicated works of architecture. Even the darker, more foreboding ones of the early middle ages were incredibly expensive and a huge pain to build. The type of “open air” cathedral with flying buttresses and colored glass that so amazed Jack is really a sight to behold, even in modern standards, with their intricacy and careful architectural balancing. Some of Follett’s best writing emerges when he describes the smooth arches, the interior of the nave, the structure of the transepts, and the light streaming in through elongated windows that brightened darkened corners, an innovation thought to be structurally impossible in a stone building.

The book does have its faults. Follett’s writing was not all that consistent. It was jarring to read Follett’s grandiose descriptions of cathedrals and then, on the next page, read about William Hamleigh fantasizing about violating women. The violence was graphic, almost to the point of being gratuitous, but then again everything about Follett's writing was graphic. I personally take no issue with graphic violence, but people who do should take note that the prose of this novel is in-your-face blunt.

My overall impression of the novel is that it is a tour de force of storytelling; a story that weaves together the lives of enemies and friends who are not all completely evil or good, who have their own dreams and ambitions, and who are willing to do dirty yet necessary things to achieve their ends. Some are more good than others, some are almost saintly, and others are steaming piles of doo. But somehow, amazingly, they are all parties in the construction of this one cathedral, and the cathedral connects them in both death and life.

Faults aside, the sheer force of the story compelled me to give this five stars. It’s not a perfect novel, and the novel doesn't showcase perfect writing. But it’s a really good story, something so grand and epic that it can’t be adequately captured in just a few sentences.

Profile Image for Lianna.
871 reviews9 followers
May 6, 2008
Toward the end of this 1000 page book I noticed the ad for the equally non-descript titled SEQUEL released 17 years after Pillars. This raises a lot of questions. What kind of author leaves his fans hanging for 17 years? Can there possibly be anything left unsaid after 1000 pages? Is this why Follett looks so smug on the back cover w/his black turtleneck?

Maybe in the sequel he'll explain why he couldn't find room in the story for Martha after age 6. She was my favorite character and she got maybe 5 sentences of mention after page 300. Talk about a huge loose end.

And what was with all the raping? When the author got writer's block he must have pulled out some custom Magic 8 Ball with two possible responses: A) Rape or B) Further uncertainty regarding the King of England

The result of that Magic 8 Ball shaking is Pillars of the Earth. I don't think I'll be reading the sequel.

I should have put this book down forever when the one character marries the forest witch 2 hours after his beloved wife dies a bloody death. Looking back, that was a huge red flag.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
July 4, 2010
6.0 stars. An absolutely amazing reading experience. This one may actually make it on to my "All Time Favorite" list. I listened to the audio version of this book, which means just over 40 hours of content, and when it was finished, I actually believed it should have been LONGER. This book grabbed me from the opening pages and kept me interested and engaged throughout the entire novel (a very rare feet for a 1000 page novel). With as much as I had heard about this book, I went into it with very high expectations and they were absolutely met (if not exceeded). I can't recommend this book highly enough.

I also need to say that the narrator, John Lee, did another amazing job. Coincidentally, he was also the narrator on the only other 40+ hour audio book I ever listened to, Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton. He can certainly make a great book, even better. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!!
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