Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

It's kind of pathetic that I can't remember this, but I think it was Lula O who told me she'd really been wanting to read Pillars so I should get a move on with my review already. Incidentally, I just found out that Lula's site has music on it which nearly sent me flying out of my chair because I've been on her site a million times, just never with the loud speakers on. I'm awake now Lula, thanks! ;P

So Pillars. This book is epic on so many levels. First of all, it's epically long. I listened to the audio version read by John Lee (excellent reader), or I still wouldn't be done with it. I think it took me a week and a half just to finish the audio book, which was 40 hours, so I can't imagine how long the paper version would have taken me. Secondly, it was an epic tale of the Homerian kind. It must have taken Follet year and years to work out all of the connections and order of events so that they would fit seamlessly together in the end. Reading this was kind of like riding a roller coaster in the dark with unexpected twists and turns. There were plots and sub-plots and sub-sub-plots. One thing would start and then he'd stop to take you somewhere else, but it never took more than about two seconds to stop objecting to the change of story because the new story was just as good as the old. Then, there were journey's into medieval life: peasant life, monastic life, noble life, war, peace and architecture. The details were fairly amazing and rarely slowed the book down. It almost felt like you were learning quite a lot about many different things, although I don't really now just how accurate it all was, especially the bits where he combined fiction with actual history, since my history is very weak.

Oh wait, you want to know what it's about? Ah right. Nearly forgot. The story is set in the 12th century and is essentially the tale of how the Kingsbridge Cathedral (fictional) was built. I know that sounds a bit boring and tedious, but it's not just about How it was built, but all of the personal stories that lead up to it's being built. As in real life, there is no one thing that made the whole thing up, but many things converged on one another for the building to become possible. There was Tom Builder who wanted to build a cathedral. Had he not been starving and desperate the cathedral would not have been built. There was Phillip the Monk whose faith perseverance and intelligence were crucial. There was Aliena the starving daughter of the ex-Earl who defied all odds to become a moving force in the story (rock on Aliena!). Jack and his mother and dead father's stories. Alfred, Tom's son, who I still want to smack into the middle of next week for being so bloody stupid. Then there were the bad guys who were, let me tell you, really bad. Really, really bad. Seriously. I think I would have willingly killed any or all of them had they suddenly shown up on my doorstep because the destruction of anything that evil just cannot be wrong in any sense. The story is about so much that it's hard to summarize it, especially without giving anything away, so I'll just stop there. Let's just say that by the time you've finished it, you feel like you've lived several lives and lifetimes.

In case you can't already tell, I loved this book. It really was brilliant. Follett really knows how to play with your emotions while you're reading. There were instances where I found myself cheering the characters on to the point where the Go Alienas or good one Phillips where scaring the dogs. The only negative I can come up with is that I just kept thinking that for God's sake someone, just kill bloody William outright and get rid of him for once and for all. Bejebus people! How much were you going to take from the guy. Just when you thought he'd finally given up, he'd do something else that left your jaw hanging open and made you think enough is enough already. Once again, to say more would be to give too much away, so: Brilliant characters, plot and setting = One heck of a good book. 5 out of 5.

6 comments:

Lady Rook said...

Yep, I'm going to have to look this one out now. :)

Jeane said...

My father has told me how good this book is. It sounds very complex!

Trish said...

Certainly one heck of a good book! I read this one about 6 years ago and really hope to muster up the courage to read it again some day. Even though it is totally engrossing and those story-lines are fabulous, the 1000 pages is quite daunting!

Glad you enjoyed this one!!

Lula O said...

Great review! 40 hours? Sheesh, you are dedicated. I'm really looking forward to this one now, even though it is the thickest book of all freakin' time!
And, um, er, unless my blog is being haunted by spooky spirits, I don't have any music on it. That I know of anyway..unless it's the screams of people hating my reviews.
Hey maybe it is being haunted!

Lula O said...

Okay.
I stand corrected.
Apparently there is music on my blog. In the form of the movie trailer for Bright Star that never stops.
Oopsie.
I liked the haunting idea mucho better.

Laura's Reviews said...

I loved this book! I read it a couple of years ago . . . my review is here if you are interested. http://lauragerold.blogspot.com/2007/12/pillars-of-earth-by-ken-follett.html