Customer Reviews for

The Pillars of the Earth

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

43 out of 46 people found this review helpful.

An unforgiving, and at times brutal saga, of how the construction of a cathedral hinges on the lust, greed and ambitions of Kingsbridge people and the church, intermingled with the battle for the British throne.

Follett takes his readers on a surprising journey, exploring life in the 12th century village of Kingsbridge, a sleepy little town with a rundown church, an unimportant priory. Once the church burns to the ground, Kingsbridge becomes the unlikely stage for power struggl...
Follett takes his readers on a surprising journey, exploring life in the 12th century village of Kingsbridge, a sleepy little town with a rundown church, an unimportant priory. Once the church burns to the ground, Kingsbridge becomes the unlikely stage for power struggles between church and state, the church's internal battles, and a civil war to determine England's new monarch. The lives of the characters buoy helplessly upon the waves of these sweeping changes and conflicts, each one overcome with their own quests for survival. At the crux of it all is each character's desire either to build, or to frustrate the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral. Follett's stuns his readers with what the characters are willing to do, to endure and to overcome in their race to manifest their own relentless ambitions, at any cost.

posted by LaRose2010 on June 24, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

31 out of 73 people found this review helpful.

Didnt' even finish

The book started well enough, but deeper into it, the narrative lapsed into a cycle of senseless brutality and sex that, as far as I could see, didn't do much to advance the story. If the story got better, I'll never know. While I understand the period was full of viole...
The book started well enough, but deeper into it, the narrative lapsed into a cycle of senseless brutality and sex that, as far as I could see, didn't do much to advance the story. If the story got better, I'll never know. While I understand the period was full of violence, I don't think I need to be beaten over the head with it page after page. I got the feeling the author was living out some kind of alternate life: vicarious violence? Not at all interested in the sequel.

posted by JSB_NWI on March 4, 2009

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  • Posted June 24, 2010

    An unforgiving, and at times brutal saga, of how the construction of a cathedral hinges on the lust, greed and ambitions of Kingsbridge people and the church, intermingled with the battle for the British throne.

    Follett takes his readers on a surprising journey, exploring life in the 12th century village of Kingsbridge, a sleepy little town with a rundown church, an unimportant priory. Once the church burns to the ground, Kingsbridge becomes the unlikely stage for power struggles between church and state, the church's internal battles, and a civil war to determine England's new monarch. The lives of the characters buoy helplessly upon the waves of these sweeping changes and conflicts, each one overcome with their own quests for survival. At the crux of it all is each character's desire either to build, or to frustrate the building of the Kingsbridge Cathedral. Follett's stuns his readers with what the characters are willing to do, to endure and to overcome in their race to manifest their own relentless ambitions, at any cost.

    43 out of 46 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Didnt' even finish

    The book started well enough, but deeper into it, the narrative lapsed into a cycle of senseless brutality and sex that, as far as I could see, didn't do much to advance the story. If the story got better, I'll never know. While I understand the period was full of violence, I don't think I need to be beaten over the head with it page after page. I got the feeling the author was living out some kind of alternate life: vicarious violence? Not at all interested in the sequel.

    31 out of 73 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 11, 2009

    A Sweeping Epic of Historical Significance and Memorable Characters

    Medieval Cathedral Architecture. Sounds Boring, doesn't it? But Ken Follett breathed life into what could be a mundane subject. He made me care about the sweat, sacrifice and genius that went into creating the most beautiful structures that still stand today. The characters crawled into my heart and still remain there. It's one of those books that you read and read saying, "I can't wait to see what happens in the end!" But when the end comes, you realize you won't be a part of their lives any more. I felt as if I lost my friends. For me, that's the sign of a good book.

    30 out of 32 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2009

    It just wasn't very good.

    After having read the reviews, I thought the book wouldn't be that bad. Unfortunately, it was bad. Maybe for the people that don't read much it might have been an enjoyable book. But for the rest of us, it sucked. One of the biggest peeves I had, dealt with how the author threw in modern language and sayings into a historical novel. Obviously, the language couldn't have been historically accurate all the time but the author could have done a better job. At one point early in the book, one of the main male characters finds a woman to be attractive and says that she is "HOT." Um... What? Isn't this supposed to be set in the 12th century? Also, like another reviewer wrote, "...only a simpleton would write conflict after implausible conflict punctuated by detailed descriptions of cathedral making." After having read works from David McCullough and James Bradley, I found that this author just doesn't know what he is doing.

    21 out of 54 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    Has the Human condition really changed?

    In his treatise, "On Moral Fiction", John Gardner explained that one should come away from a work of fiction with some new knowledge. A mystery set in the MacCarthy era should not only entertain but provide information as to what MacCathyism was all about. In the development of the characters and the events they endured, Ken Follett educates the reader in the life and times of this remote era. Reveals the primitive nature of life during this time and the legal and social atmosphere that pervaded in Western Europe during the twelfth century. For those interested, cathedral architecture is addressed and the influence of the church is portrayed. Although the circumstances and events depicted as having occurred to the characters is sometimes a bit ludicrous, one can easily relate to their angst at times and joy at others. Their emotions are believable and, as in most other well written fiction, leave one with a sense of loss as the era ends.

    14 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I enjoyed it. I recommend it to those whose attention spans can handle it.

    The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet-or how to build a cathedral

    Loosely based on the story of Henry I of England who died on 1 December 1135. Although Henry's barons had sworn allegiance to his daughter as their Queen, her gender and her remarriage into the House of Anjou, an enemy of the Normans, allowed Henry's nephew Stephen of Blois, to come to England and claim the throne with popular support. The struggle between the former Empress and Stephen resulted in a long civil war known as the Anarchy. The dispute was eventually settled by Stephen's naming of Matilda's (Maud in the book) son, Henry Plantagenet, as his heir in 1153.
    In the story, Follett sets the thrillers aside for a long, steady story about building a cathedral in 12th-century England. Bloodthirsty or adventure-crazed Follett readers will be frustrated, but anyone who has ever been moved by the splendors of a fine church will sink right into this highly detailed but fast-moving historical work - a novel about the people and skills needed to put up an eye-popping cathedral in the very unsettled days just before the ascension of Henry II. The cathedral is the brainchild of Philip, prior of the monastery at Kingsbridge, and Tom, an itinerant master mason. Philip, shrewd and ambitious but genuinely devout, sees it as a sign of divine agreement when his decrepit old cathedral burns on the night that Tom and his starving family show up seeking shelter. Actually, it's Tom's clever stepson Jack who has stepped in to carry out God's will by secretly torching the cathedral attic, but the effect is the same. Tom gets the commission to start the rebuilding - which is what he has wanted to do more than anything in his life. Meanwhile, however, the work is complicated greatly by local politics. There is a loathsome baron, Wlilliam Hamleigh and his family who have usurped the local earldom and allied themselves with the powerful, cynical bishop, Walerian Bigod - who is himself sinfully jealous of Philip's cathedral. There are the dispossessed heirs to earldom, a beautiful girlAliena of Shiring and her bellicose brother,Robert, both sworn to root out the usurpers. And there is the mysterious Ellen, Tom's second wife, who witnessed an ancient treachery that haunts the bishop, the priory, and the vile would-be earl. The great work is set back, and Tom is killed in a raid by the rivals. It falls to young Jack to finish the work.

    Follets prose is amazing. His ability to build characters is incredible-they spring out of the poages as you read. He dominates the point of view techniques to the point that we sometimes are told the same story from different characters' points of view.

    My only complaint is the lenhgt of the story, Its a big, fat book that takes a good long while to read-983 small print pages-about 200 of them I would have edited out. It truly is a book about building a cathedral and the author spent several hundrede pages explaining how to build a cathedral-deviating from the main story. I would have deleted them.

    I enjoyed it. I recommend it to those whose attention spans can handle it.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A totally engrossing book

    The book was skillfully wwritten with an outstanding plot filled with violence, hunger, lust, wars without end between rivals claiming the English throne, and characters that leap from the pages from which they were written. The detail is excruciating and the stoic nature within which death is dealt is interesting. What I found astounding was how Follet managed to draw on a parallels to istory. All those skilled craftsmen some dedicating their lives to building the Church, which one of the characters ironically by the name of Jack Jackson, Jack Builder etc. had burned down to avoid starvation. The book what can I possibly say? The only thing wrong with it paralle lsarrales starts up slowly and then accelerates to such a level that I stayed up from 10pm to 1am in the morning. <BR/><BR/>It brings to mind James Clavell's Shogun and how the plot, cultures, and uniqueness of the the Japanese culture in the time of the Samuraii and reveals the underpinnings of why they fought so fanatically to the death in the World Wars.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2008

    Uninspired schlocky crap

    Only the casual reader could like this book. If you are truly an avid reader, and have progressed beyond Dean Koontz and James Patterson, you will recognize what a hack Follet is. His horrid prose is only rivaled by his amateurish storytelling abilities; only a simpleton would write conflict after implausible conflict punctuated by detailed descriptions of cathedral making. This book is patently ridiculous and I can't believe there is such a wellspring of support for it. Just proof positive that our nation is barely literate.

    10 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great read!

    It is a thick book, but it goes fast. Good for a rainy day.<BR/>Warning - language, sex

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Lame!!! Very bad book!!

    It's not worth the time. It's very long, the characters are stupidly predictable: the bad are evil persons without heart, the good are saints. The story is repetitive and the language is poor. I can't understand why many people like it, you can't identify with any of the characters; a good author would've make a better story in 500 pages instead of the boring 1300 pages of this book.

    7 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2008

    * What an Aggravation

    At first I was just bored with this book, but the more I read, the more aggravated I became. The plot was simple and the characters were simple, simply stereotypical. I learned more about how to level a stone in building a cathedral than how real human beings act and think. Most of the scenes about sex and violence were gratuitous and vulgar. The characters were about as well developed as cartoons. After 456 pages of torture, I finally threw the book down and cheered at my release. What a waste of time!

    6 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2008

    Shocked that people think this is great!

    This book was like reading a bad soap opera. It was predictable and trashy. I just don't get it......

    6 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2008

    So-So

    I found this book to be so-so. Which is probably the worst comment I could make about someone's work. I didn't dislike it. But I didn't like it either. It took me a few pages to realize I wasn't going to wade through a "thee" and "thou" dialog. And when I settled into understanding this was "modern" storytelling then I rather enjoyed it. It can be tedious at times. Almost an early centuries "Dynasty". Strong women, weak men. I had to laugh at some of the "intimate" descriptions.

    5 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2008

    sophmoric

    I had to read this book for book club...what a yawner. No character development, no evocative description. It was all plot: and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened. As another member of my book club said, 'it was like trying to cross a river in cement shoes.'

    5 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2004

    Pillagers of the Earth

    I was very disappointed by this book. A decent editing job might have improved it. The story and dialogue were on the level of a soap opera and the characters grew tiresome. The historical setting was the most interesting aspect of the book.

    4 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    Poorly Written Soap Opera!

    I read this book for a book club. This book is like a very poorly written soap opera. The obvious is restated repeatedly, insulting the reader's memory and intelligence. Several of the character's dialogue is frequently unbelievable and 'out of character' in order to explain something. I am very glad I checked this book out of the Library instead of purchasing. Our book club has chosen the next book as well, but I'll be skipping that one!

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2008

    Pillars of the Earth

    This was a painful read for me. I am a believer in finishing a book, once started, however, this was quite possibly the most over-rated novel I have read to date. The vulgarity and constant degradation of women and children, consistent, throughout the book, made me want to shudder. No wait...DID make me shudder. I have no desire to read Mr. Follet's sequel, nor would I recommend this book to anyone. My bad, for picking up yet another book of Oprah's choice. No doubt, there are those who love and WILL love this book...I, am not one of them.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2008

    Pillars of the Earth

    Unforgettable? Why? When I first picked this book up, I put it down several times. Right at the offset, with the brutal beating of the five year old daughter 'Martha', I had a bad taste in my mouth. My girlfriend urged me on, promised that it would be the best book I have ever read. Well, the more I read, the more offended I became. The lewd and vulgar images that played across my mind with the most minute of details described, with almost a base pleasure left me wanting to vomit. I do not find that the repeated rape of women, the torture of babies, and the continuous repeating of these incidents by one if not other characters, the least bit entertaining. It almost makes me believe that the writer is playing out his most disgusting fantasies on page after page. The premise of the book is outright boring. The technical terms with describing the building of a cathedral for years on end. The constant let-downs. Page after page after page. This book was just plain torturous. I can not and will not recommend it. So, Unforgettable? yes, because those same images that were splayed across those pages, continue to play across my mind. His opinion of women and children must not be very high. Disgusting novel.

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2008

    Wayyy Overrated

    I read this book on a reccomendation from multipal people and was disappoitned in their lack of taste in books. It was written in a very simple fashion that just goes on and on for near 1000 pages. I wanted to push all but a couple of the characters off a cliff, they were so unlikeable. The whole premise of this book is dull, a guy wants to build a cathederal and finally gets the opportunity to. Wow, fascinating 'note the sarcasm' I can usually finish a 1000 page book in a few days, this took my a few months because I kept having to put it down. Do yourself a favor and read something good. aka, not this.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2005

    I Got Tired of It....

    After rereading Pillars for about the 4th time in as many years, I have come to the sorry conclusion that its truly a shell of a novel. There is no human depth here. Emotional tugs and putting you into the scenes are really missing. I got tired of the back and forth and back and forth ad nauseum plots, fights and building problems. I won't be reading it again. Sorry!

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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