The Pillars of the Earth
I really, really enjoyed this book, devouring its contents in preference to TV or anything also on offer.
Ken Follett has created something of a historical masterpiece, cleverly weaving a tale around the building of the nations finest Cathedrals. In so doing he both educates and entertains which is a neat trick if you can pull it off.
The book spans a period of about 70 years from 1120 and focuses in on the construction of a fictional monastic cathedral to the east of Gloucester, following the lives of Prior Philip, a family of builders and the baddie Lords and Bishops. Its a tale of good against evil and the dogged perseverance of a pioneering monk, overcoming obstacles and seeing his cathedral built against all the odds.
I think you need to like buildings to really get into this book. As you can tell from my blog, I get off on the built world and this book has given me a new appreciation of the cathedrals I have tended to take for granted. Its amazing to think that these soaring structures were built entirely by hand, rising from hovels and shelters like the Patronas Towers emerging from a modern day shanty town. Breathtaking, daring and hugely impressive. The builders were literally the rock stars of their day.
To put the book in an architectural context, it is set at the point that the blocky Norman constructions with their thick walls and rounded windows gave way to tall lightweight and airy style seen in places like Sailsbury and Norwich - huge pointed windows and graceful flying buttresses.
At 1000 pages this is no light read, but when a book is compelling you don't want it to end so the length is no hardship. The only pain was carrying such a doorstop round with me!
A great book which provides an added appreciation of what went into the building of the cathedrals - and its amazing that after the thick end of a millennium they are still standing tall and proud.