Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Pillars of the Earth - book review

The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett

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.

5 comments:

Derek and Dot said...

Interestingly enough when I was back in New Zealand recently I acquired a DVD of the mini series " The pillars of the Earth" shown there just before christmas. It had extremely high reviews so we must get on to watching it.

Carol said...

A great book - as you say - it's a great and interesting journey. Both myself and my husband have read and enjoyed it and a few days ago I lent it to Geoff on NB Seyella; I'm sure that he will enjoy it too. Regards, Carol

Anonymous said...

I like your book reviews - having exhauseted the sci-fi/fantasy genre for the time being, we're looking for inspiration. I've found the Stieg Larson types a little too dark so maybe this might be a good alternative.

1000 pages sound good - I can devour a 'standard' paperback in a few hours so this would definitely keep my interest a bit longer.

Regards

Sue, nb Indigo Dream

Captain Ahab said...

Sue
Let me know what you think.
Derek and Dot
We tried to record the mini series but then our ariel cable was cut through ans we missed two episodes.
Andy

jonali said...

I also have just read the pillars of the earth and really enjoyed it. Are his other books as good. I avoided the 1000 page weight by getting it on Kindle. I've also just discovered Robert Harris's books about ancient rome, Lustrum, Imperium and Pompeii, interesting insight into early democracy (of a sort).
Ali nb Tormentil