Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Pillars of the Earth: Finally Finished!

Man, it was starting to feel like that cathedral would NEVER get built!  But it did, and I finally finished reading about it. For those unfamiliar, The Pillars of the Earth takes places in 12th century England, and chronicles a monk's challenge-fraught endeavor to build a beautiful, modern cathedral. What was amazing to me, though, as I talked with people during the month it took to read this 1,000-page behemoth, is how many people actually were familiar with the book; many more people than I would have expected — from my uncle Rick, to the CEO of my company, to my friend Emily.

As I posted previously, Follett is best known for his thrillers, but delved into historical fiction because of his life-long fascination with dark-age European cathedrals. The risk certainly paid off — while not the least bit intellectually challenging, this novel is just a solid, fun read. It's got everything — murder, political scheming, sex (though, these are some of the cheesiest, most unintentionally hilarious sex scenes ever rendered on paper), war, descriptions of architecture, a few touching love stories, and evil characters who get their comeuppances. It's a "story" in the truest sense of the word — Follett only delves into the characters' thoughts when it serves the purpose of advancing the plot or explaining the particular scheme one of them is cooking up. Again, it's not at all deep or literary — it's just a great, great story.  Have you read Pillars?  What did you think?

There is a sequel to the book called World Without End that takes place in the same fictional town of Kingsbridge about 200 years after the events of Pillars. I have the book on my shelf, and will certainly dive in the next time I'm looking for some good historical brain candy.

And speaking of brain candy, now it's on to The Lost Symbol. I can't believe I just typed those words. Hopefully I can knock this sucker out in about a week...

(One last note — as an addendum to my John Irving post — snooty NY Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani, well-known for hating just about everything, absolutely laid into Irving as a writer in a review published this week. She did add a few positive comments about Twisted River (" evolves into a deeply felt and often moving story."), though after basically calling him a sentimental hack, those kind words seem rather begrudging.)


  1. Oh I want to read this my BFF told me it was amazing!

    Thanks for following me! I'm also too much of a wuss to write my own book. I'll read for now...
    I'm glad your one of my few make readers!

  2. Absolutely LOVED Pillars of the Earth, and World Without End. His ability to write such in depth monsters is impressive! I still didn't want World Without End to finish, despite being more than 1100 pgs long.

    I think they're both masterpieces!

  3. "his life-long fascination with dark-age European cathedrals."

    Are those his words?

    Dark Age usually = fall to restoration of West Rome, the time between Romulus Augustulus and Charlemagne. The Cathedrals are what English calls "High Middle Ages" and French "Moyen Âge Classique". So also this setting of Follett.