Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

"Having faith in God did not mean sitting back and doing nothing.  It meant believing you would find success if you did your best honestly and energetically."

"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."

My historical fiction book for LIS 642 - Reading Interests of Adults

The Pillars of the Earth is an historical fiction novel centered around the building of a Gothic cathedral in twelfth-century England.  The epic story spans over five decades and intertwines the lives of several main characters.  The book begins when Tom Builder and his family come across Kingsbridge Priory with Ellen and her son Jack while looking for work as a builder after his wife passes away.  They seek refuge for the night, but when the church burns down, Philip Prior offers Tom the position of master builder to rebuild the cathedral.  Nearby, the son of a lord, William Hamleigh is rejected an offer of marriage by Aliana, the daughter of the Earl of Shiring.  William’s family seeks revenge by proving Aliana’s father is a traitor to the new King Stephen and takes over their land.  Left penniless, Aliana and her brother Richard end up in Kingsbridge trying to rebuild their lives.  As the cathedral is build, the lives of each of the characters become more and more connected and new characters are introduced. Kingbridge begins to grow and prosper each year, but is faced with constant barriers due to the ambition of William against the people of Kingbridge and the Priory.  

This book has been on my “to-read” list for a number of years but, at 974 pages, I haven’t gotten a chance to get around to reading it until now.  Historical fiction has always been my favorite genre to read.  When selecting a book from this genre, I found that I had read all of the “must-reads” listed except The Pillars of the Earth, so I decide to give it a try.  It took me a little while to get into, but once I got through the first couple hundred pages, I became obsessed with the story and couldn’t put it down!  Luckily, the fall semester was ending and I had a lot of time to read.  This book had everything that I look for in a great historical fiction novel - lots of history and description, interesting characters, tons of emotion, and enough conflict to keep the story interesting.  I loved the description of twelfth-century live (which I haven’t read too much about) and liked learning about the details of building a large cathedral and living in a priory.  I very much enjoyed the storyline, but my favorite part of the novel was the characters.  I was intrigued by each individual story, their relationships to one another, and how they each played a unique part in the building of the cathedral.  I couldn’t wait keep reading to find out what would happen to everyone in the story and kept rooting for them to find their own “happy endings.”  The Pillars of the Earth is one of the best books I have read in a long time and one that I will want to come back to again and again - granted that I have the time!

This book was #4 on my top ten list of 2014.

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