The Pillars of the Earth

( 2567 )

Overview

As a new age dawns in England's twelfth century, the building of a mighty Gothic cathedral sets the stage for a story of intrigue and power, revenge and betrayal.

Ken Follett, internationally-acclaimed master of split-second suspense, author of six #1 bestsellers, reaches beyond the expected to achieve his most brilliant and remarkable novel. The epic story of the building of a cathedral in 12th century England and the lives of the people entwined with it and each ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Audiobook)
  • All (10) from $2.99   
  • New (4) from $21.00   
  • Used (6) from $14.52   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$21.00
Seller since 2007

Feedback rating:

(5849)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
New

Ships from: Miamisburg, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$56.48
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(267)

Condition: New
Brand New Item.

Ships from: Chatham, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$65.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(149)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$80.00
Seller since 2005

Feedback rating:

(44)

Condition: New
2002 Audiobook cassette New. 20 cassettes. 20 cassettes.

Ships from: San Marino, CA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
The Pillars of the Earth

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.
Marketplace
BN.com

All Available Formats & Editions

Overview

As a new age dawns in England's twelfth century, the building of a mighty Gothic cathedral sets the stage for a story of intrigue and power, revenge and betrayal.

Ken Follett, internationally-acclaimed master of split-second suspense, author of six #1 bestsellers, reaches beyond the expected to achieve his most brilliant and remarkable novel. The epic story of the building of a cathedral in 12th century England and the lives of the people entwined with it and each other is a sensuous, enduring narrative, and a gripping tale of faith, ambition, bloodshed and betrayal.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With this book, Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner, escaping the narrow genre of suspense thrillers to take credit for a historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and detail and memorable characterization. Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through four decades during which social and political upheaval and the internal politics of the church affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. The insightful portrayals of an idealistic master builder, a pious, dogmatic but compassionate prior and an unscrupulous, ruthless bishop are balanced by those of a trio of independent, resourceful women (one of them quite loathesome) who can stand on their own as memorable characters in any genre. Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow on ensuing events, the narrative is a seesaw of tension in which circumstances change with shocking but true-to-life unpredictability. Follett's impeccable pacing builds suspense in a balanced narrative that offers action, intrigue, violence and passion as well as the step-by-step description of an edifice rising in slow stages, its progress tied to the vicissitudes of fortune and the permutations of evolving architectural style. Follett's depiction of the precarious balance of power between monarchy and religion in the Middle Ages, and of the effects of social upheavals and the forces of nature (storms, famines) on political events; his ability to convey the fine points of architecture so that the cathedral becomes clearly visualized in the reader's mind; and above all, his portrayals of the enduring human emotions of ambition, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge and love, result in a highly engrossing narrative. Manipulating a complex plot in which the characters interact against a broad canvas of medieval life, Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale.
Library Journal
A radical departure from Follett's novels of international suspense and intrigue, this chronicles the vicissitudes of a prior, his master builder, and their community as they struggle to build a cathedral and protect themselves during the tumultuous 12th century, when the empress Maud and Stephen are fighting for the crown of England after the death of Henry I. The plot is less tightly controlled than those in Follett's contemporary works, and despite the wealth of historical detail, especially concerning architecture and construction, much of the language as well as the psychology of the characters and their relationships remains firmly rooted in the 20th century. This will appeal more to lovers of exciting adventure stories than true devotees of historical fiction. Literary Guild dual main selection.-- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
Cecilia Holland
For roughly 500 pages, half the book, cathedrals and rapine are enough. Mr. Follett's male characters are chess pieces, clearly labeled Good Guy and Bad Guy. There is a saintly churchman and a bad one; the saint plays politics just as much as the sinner, but we know which one is the villain because he wears black. Mr. Follett's female characters are virtually indistinguishable from one another, plucky types whom men must nonetheless rescue from any real danger....Like a cathedral built too high, Mr. Follett's story develops cracks, and chunks of it fall into the crypt. The plot, which theoretically centers on the building of a cathedral, spills off into too many different directions, including a whirlwind tour of Europe and a completely obvious mystery. The characters never grow, and without some deepening emotional discovery, the world of the novel becomes trite, the incidentsThe vigor and intensity of the first half of the book may bring The Pillars of the Earth popular success. But half a book isn't good enough, especially at these prices. repetitious. -- New York Times
Chicago Sun-Times
“A novel of majesty and power.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590862919
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 20 cassettes, 30 hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 7.86 (h) x 3.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Ken Follett's career as a bestselling author has spanned more than three decades. He is the author of numerous immensely popular books, including Eye of the Needle, Triple, The Key to Rebecca, The Man From St. Petersburg, On Wings of Eagles, Lie Down With Lions, The Pillars of the Earth, A Dangerous Fortune, The Third Twin, The Hammer of Eden, and World Without End. He lives in England with his wife, Barbara Follett, a British M.P.

Biography

As a young boy growing up in Cardiff, Wales, Ken Follett's love for all things literary began early on. The son of devoutly religious parents who didn't allow their children to watch television or even listen to the radio, Follett found himself drawn to the library. It soon became his favorite place -- its shelves full of stories providing his escape, and ultimately, his inspiration.

Follett's more formal education took place years later at London's University College, where he studied philosophy -- a choice that, as he explains on his official Web site, he believes guided his career as an author. "There is a real connection between philosophy and fiction," Follet explains. "In philosophy you deal with questions like: ‘We're sitting at this table, but is the table real?' A daft question, but in studying philosophy, you need to take that sort of thing seriously and have an off-the-wall imagination. Writing fiction is the same."

After graduating in 1970, a journalism class touched off Follett's career as a writer. He started out covering beats for the South Wales Echo, and later wrote a column for London's Evening News. Becoming more and more interested in writing fiction on evenings and weekends, however, Follett soon realized that books were his true business, and in 1974 he went to work for Everest Books, a humble London publishing house.

After releasing a few of his own novels to less than thunderous acclaim --including The Shakeout (1975) and Paper Money (1977) -- Follett finally hit it big with 1978's Eye of the Needle. The taut, edgy thriller with more than a dash of sex appeal flew off the shelves, winning the Edgar award and allowing Follett to quit his job and get to work on his next book, Triple. Showing no signs of a sophomore slump, Triple went on to spark a string of bestselling spy thrillers, including The Key to Rebecca (1980), The Man from St. Petersburg (1982), and Lie Down with Lions (1986). 1983's On Wings of Eagles was an interesting departure -- a nonfiction account of how two of Ross Perot's employees were rescued from Iran in 1979.

Follett changed direction even more sharply in 1989, surprising fans with The Pillars of the Earth -- a novel set in the Middle Ages many critics considered his crowning achievement. "A novel of majesty and power," said The Chicago Sun-Times of Follett's epic story. "It will hold you, fascinate you, surround you."

Follett's next three books were a trio considered to be more suspenseful than thrill-filled -- Night Over Water (1991), A Dangerous Fortune (1993) and A Place Called Freedom (1995), but The Third Twin (1996) and The Hammer of Eden (1998) marked a return to Follett's trademark capers. The wartime novels Code to Zero (2000) and Jackdaws (2001) showcased Follett's "unique ability to tell stories of international conflict and tell them well," according to Larry King in USA Today.

Follett "hits the mark again" (Publishers Weekly) with his latest story of international intrigue, Hornet Flight (2002) -- the WWII story of a young couple trying to escape occupied Denmark in a rebuilt Hornet Moth biplane who become unwitting carriers of top-secret information.

In a way, Follett's smash-hit success has allowed him to give back to the library of Cardiff, Wales -- by filling its shelves with his own transporting tales.

Good To Know

Eye of the Needle was made into a major motion picture, and four of Follett's books have been made into television mini-series: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions, On Wings of Eagles and The Third Twin -- the rights for which were sold to CBS for the record sum of $1,400,000.

A very civic-minded soul, Follett is quite involved in his Hertfordshire community, serving as President of the Dyslexia Institute, Council Member of the National Literacy Trust, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Chair of Governors of the Roebuck Primary School & Nursery, Patron of Stevenage Home-Start, director of the Stevenage Leisure Ltd. and Vice-President of the Stevenage Borough Football club.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Hertfordshire, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 5, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cardiff, Wales
    1. Education:
      B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

In a broad valley, at the foot of a sloping hillside, beside a clear bubbling stream, Tom was building a house.

The walls were already three feet high and rising fast. The two masons Tom had engaged were working steadily in the sunshine, their trowels going scrape, slap and then tap, tap while their laborer sweated under the weight of the big stone blocks. Tom’s son Alfred was mixing mortar, counting aloud as he scooped sand onto a board. There was also a carpenter, working at the bench beside Tom, carefully shaping a length of beech wood with an adz.

Alfred was fourteen years old, and tall like Tom. Tom was a head higher than most men, and Alfred was only a couple of inches less, and still growing. They looked alike too: both had light-brown hair and greenish eyes with brown flecks. People said they were a handsome pair. The main difference between them was that Tom had a curly brown beard, whereas Alfred had only a fine blond fluff. The hair on Alfred’s head had been that color once, Tom remembered fondly. Now that Alfred was becoming a man, Tom wished he would take a more intelligent interest in his work, for he had a lot to learn if he was to be a mason like his father; but so far Alfred remained bored and baffled by the principles of building.

When the house was finished it would be the most luxurious home for miles around. The ground floor would be a spacious undercroft, for storage, with a curved vault for a ceiling, so that it would not catch fire. The hall, where people actually lived, would be above, reached by an outside staircase, its height making it hard to attack and easy to defend. Against the hall wall there would be a chimney, to take away the smoke of the fire. This was a radical innovation: Tom had only ever seen one house with a chimney, but it had struck him as such a good idea that he was determined to copy it. At one end of the house, over the hall, there would be a small bedroom, for that was what earls’ daughters demanded nowadays—they were too fine to sleep in the hall with the men and the serving wenches and the hunting dogs. The kitchen would be a separate building, for every kitchen caught fire sooner or later, and there was nothing for it but to build them far away from everything else and put up with lukewarm food.

Tom was making the doorway of the house. The doorposts would be rounded to look like columns—a touch of distinction for the noble newlyweds who were to live here. With his eye on the shaped wooden template he was using as a guide, Tom set his iron chisel obliquely against the stone and tapped it gently with the big wooden hammer. A small shower of fragments fell away from the surface, leaving the shape a little rounder. He did it again. Smooth enough for a cathedral.

He had worked on a cathedral once—Exeter. At first he had treated it like any other job. He had been angry and resentful when the master builder had warned him that his work was not quite up to standard: he knew himself to be rather more careful than the average mason. But then he realized that the walls of a cathedral had to be not just good, but perfect. This was because the cathedral was for God, and also because the building was so big that the slightest lean in the walls, the merest variation from the absolutely true and level, could weaken the structure fatally. Tom’s resentment turned to fascination. The combination of a hugely ambitious building with merciless attention to the smallest detail opened Tom’s eyes to the wonder of his craft. He learned from the Exeter master about the importance of proportion, the symbolism of various numbers, and the almost magical formulas for working out the correct width of a wall or the angle of a step in a spiral staircase. Such things captivated him. He was surprised to learn that many masons found them incomprehensible.

After a while Tom had become the master builder’s right-hand man, and that was when he began to see the master’s shortcomings. The man was a great craftsman and an incompetent organizer. He was completely baffled by the problems of obtaining the right quantity of stone to keep pace with the masons, making sure that the blacksmith made enough of the right tools, burning lime and carting sand for the mortar makers, felling trees for the carpenters, and getting enough money from the cathedral chapter to pay for everything.

If Tom had stayed at Exeter until the master builder died, he might have become master himself; but the chapter ran out of money—partly because of the master’s mismanagement—and the craftsmen had to move on, looking for work elsewhere. Tom had been offered the post of builder to the Exeter castellan, repairing and improving the city’s fortifications. It would have been a lifetime job, barring accidents. But Tom had turned it down, for he wanted to build another cathedral.

His wife, Agnes, had never understood that decision. They might have had a good stone house, and servants, and their own stables, and meat on the table every dinnertime; and she had never forgiven Tom for turning down the opportunity. She could not comprehend the irresistible attraction of building a cathedral: the absorbing complexity of organization, the intellectual challenge of the calculations, the sheer size of the walls, and the breathtaking beauty and grandeur of the finished building. Once he had tasted that wine, Tom was never satisfied with anything less.

That had been ten years ago. Since then they had never stayed anywhere for very long. He would design a new chapter house for a monastery, work for a year or two on a castle, or build a town house for a rich merchant; but as soon as he had some money saved he would leave, with his wife and children, and take to the road, looking for another cathedral.

He glanced up from his bench and saw Agnes standing at the edge of the building site, holding a basket of food in one hand and resting a big jug of beer on the opposite hip. It was midday. He looked at her fondly. No one would ever call her pretty, but her face was full of strength: a broad forehead, large brown eyes, a straight nose, a strong jaw. Her dark, wiry hair was parted in the middle and tied behind. She was Tom’s soul mate.

She poured beer for Tom and Alfred. They stood there for a moment, the two big men and the strong woman, drinking beer from wooden cups; and then the fourth member of the family came skipping out of the wheat field: Martha, seven years old and as pretty as a daffodil, but a daffodil with a petal missing, for she had a gap where two milk teeth had fallen out and the new ones had not yet grown. She ran to Tom, kissed his dusty beard, and begged a sip of his bear. He hugged her bony body. “Don’t drink too much, or you’ll fall into a ditch,” he said. She staggered around in a circle, pretending to be drunk.

They all sat down on the woodpile. Agnes handed Tom a hunk of wheat bread, a thick slice of boiled bacon and a small onion. He took a bite from the meat and started to peel the onion. Agnes gave the children food and began to eat her own. Perhaps it was irresponsible, Tom thought, to turn down that dull job in Exeter and go looking for a cathedral to build; but I’ve always been able to feed them all, despite my recklessness.

He took his eating knife from the front pocket of his leather apron, cut a slice off the onion, and ate it with a bite of bread. The onion was sweet and stinging in his mouth. Agnes said: “I’m with child again.”

Tom stopped chewing and stared at her. A thrill of delight took hold of him. Not knowing what to say, he just smiled foolishly at her. After a few moments she blushed, and said, “It isn’t that surprising.”

Tom hugged her. “Well, well,” he said, still grinning with pleasure. “A babe to pull my beard. And I thought the next would be Alfred’s.”

“Don’t get too happy yet,” Agnes cautioned. “It’s bad luck to name the child before it’s born.”

Tom nodded assent. Agnes had had several miscarriages and one stillborn baby, and there had been another little girl, Matilda, who had lived on two years. “I’d like a boy, though,” he said. “Now that Alfred’s so big. When is it due?”

“After Christmas.”

Tom began to calculate. The shell of the house would be finished by first frost, then the stonework would have to be covered with straw to protect it through the winter. The masons would spend the cold months cutting stones for windows, vaults, doorcases and the fireplace, while the carpenter made floorboards and doors and shutters and Tom built the scaffolding for the upstairs work. Then in spring they would vault the undercroft, floor the hall above it, and put on the roof. The job would feed the family until Whitsun, by which time the baby would be a half year old. Then they would move on. “Good,” he said contentedly. “This is good.” He ate another slice of onion.

“I’m too old to bare children,” said Agnes. “This must be my last.”

Tom thought about that. He was not sure how old she was, in numbers, but plenty of women bore children at her time in life. However, it was true they suffered more as they grew older, and the babies were not as strong. No doubt she was right. But how would she make certain that she would not conceive again? he wondered. Then he realized how, and a cloud shadowed his sunny mood.

“I may get a good job, in a town,” he said, trying to mollify her. “A cathedral, or a palace. Then we might have a big house with wood floors, and a maid to help you with the baby.”

Her face hardened, and she said skeptically: “It may be.” She did not like to hear talk of cathedrals. If Tom had never worked on a cathedral, her face said, she might be living in a town house now, with money saved up and buried under the fireplace, and nothing to worry about.

Tom looked away and took another bite of bacon. They had something to celebrate, but they were in disharmony. He felt let down. He chewed the tough meat for a while, then he heard a horse. He cocked his head to listen. The rider was coming through the trees from the direction of the road, taking a short cut and avoiding the village.

A moment later, a young man on a pony trotted up and dismounted. He looked like a squire, a kind of apprentice knight. “Your lord is coming,” he said.

Tom stood up. “You mean Lord Percy?” Percy Hamleigh was one of the most important men in the country. He owned this valley, and many others, and he was paying for the house.

“His son,” said the squire.

“Young William.” Percy’s son, William, was to occupy this house after his marriage. He was engaged to Lady Aliena, the daughter of the earl of Shiring.

“The same,” said the squire, “And in a rage.”

Tom’s heart sank. At the best of times it could be difficult to deal with the owner of a house under construction. An owner in a rage was impossible. “What’s he angry about?”

“His bride rejected him.”

“The earl’s daughter?” said Tom in surprise. He felt a pang of fear: he had just been thinking how secure his future was. “I thought that was settled.”

“So did we all—except Lady Aliena, it seems,” the squire said. “The moment she met him, she announced that she wouldn’t marry him for all the world and a woodcock.”

Tom frowned worriedly. He did not want this to be true. “But the boy’s not bad-looking, as I recall.”

Agnes said: “As if that made any difference, in her position. If earls’ daughters were allowed to marry whom they please, we’d all be ruled by strolling minstrels and dark-eyed outlaws.”

“The girl may yet change her mind,” Tom said hopefully.

“She will if her mother takes a birch rod to her,” Agnes said.

The squire said: “Her mother’s dead.”

Agnes nodded. “That explains why she doesn’t know the facts of life. But I don’t see why her father can’t compel her.”

The squire said: “It seems he once promised he would never marry her to someone she hated.”

“A foolish pledge!” Tom said angrily. How could a powerful man tie himself to the whim of a girl in that way? Her marriage could affect military alliances, baronial finances… even the building of this house.

The squire said: “She had a brother, so it’s not so important whom she marries.”

“Even so…”

“And the earl is an unbending man,” the squire went on. “He won’t go back on a promise, even one made to a child.” He shrugged. “So they say.”

Tom looked at the low stone walls of the house-to-be. He had not yet saved enough money to keep the family through winter, he realized with a chill. “Perhaps the lad will find another bride to share this place with him. He’s got the whole county to choose from.”

Alfred spoke in a cracked adolescent voice. “By Christ, I think this is him.” Following his gaze, they all looked across the field. A horse was coming from the village in a gallop, kicking up a cloud of dust and earth from the pathway. Alfred’s oath was prompted by the size as well as the speed of the horse: it was huge. Tom had seen beasts like it before, but perhaps Alfred had not. It was a war-horse, as high at the wither as a man’s chin, and broad in proportion. Such war-horses were not bred in England, but came from overseas, and were enormously costly.

Tom dropped the remains of his bread in the pocket of his apron, then narrowed his eyes against the sun and gazed across the field. The horse had its ears back and nostrils flared, but it seemed to Tom that its head was up, a sign that it was not completely out of control. Sure enough, as it came closer the rider leaned back, hauling on the reins, and the huge animal seemed to slow a little. Now Tom could feel the drumming of its hooves in the ground beneath his feet. He looked around for Martha, thinking to pick her up and put her out of harm’s way. Agnes had the same thought. But Martha was not to be seen.

“In the wheat,” Agnes said, but Tom had already figured that out and was striding across the site to the edge of the field. He scanned the waving wheat with fear in his heart but he could not see the child.

The only thing he could think of was to try and slow the horse. He stepped into the path and began to walk toward the charging beast, holding his arms wide. The horse saw him, raised its head for a better look, and slowed perceptibly. Then, to Tom’s horror, the rider spurred it on.

“You damned fool!” Tom roared, although the rider could not hear.

That was when Martha stepped out of the field and into the pathway a few yards in front of Tom.

For an instant Tom stood still in a sick panic. Then he leaped forward, shouting and waving his arms; but this was a war-horse, trained to charge at yelling hordes, and it did not flinch. Martha stood in the middle of the narrow path, staring as if transfixed by the huge beast bearing down on her. There was a moment when Tom realized desperately that he could not get to her before the horse did. He swerved to one side, his arm touching the standing wheat; and at the last instant the horse swerved to the other side. The rise’s stirrup brushed Martha’s fine hair; a hoof stamped a hole in the ground beside her bare foot; then the horse had gone by, spraying them both with dirt, and Tom snatched her up in his arms and held her tight to his pounding heart.

He stood still for a moment, awash with relief, his limbs weak, his insides watery. Then he felt a surge of fury at the recklessness of the stupid youth on his massive war-horse. He looked up angrily. Lord William was slowing the horse now, sitting back in the saddle, with his feet pushed forward into the stirrups, sawing on the reins. The horse swerved to avoid the building site. It tossed its head and then bucked, but William stayed on. He slowed it to a canter and then a trot as he guided it around in a wide circle.

Martha was crying. Tom handed her to Agnes and waited for William. The young lord was a tall, well-built fellow of about twenty years, with yellow hair and narrow eyes which made him look as if he were always peering into the sun. He wore a short black tunic with black hose, and leather shoes with straps crisscrossed up to his knees. He saw well on the horse and did not seem shaken by what had happened. The foolish boy doesn’t even know what he’s done, Tom thought bitterly. I’d like to wring his neck.

William halted the horse in front of the woodpile and looked down at the builders. “Who’s in charge here?” he said.

Tom wanted to say If you had hurt my little girl, I would have killed you, but he suppressed his rage. It was like swallowing a bitter mouthful. He approached the horse and held its bridle. “I’m the master builder,” he said tightly. “My name is Tom.”

“This house is no longer needed,” said William. “Dismiss your men.”

It was what Tom had been dreading. But he held on to the hope that William was being impetuous in his anger, and might be persuaded to change his mind. With an effort, he made his voice friendly and reasonable. “But so much work has been done,” he said. “Why waste what you’ve spent? You’ll need the house one day.”

“Don’t tell me how to manage my affairs, Tom Builder,” said William. “You’re all dismissed.” He twitched a rein, but Tom had hold of the bridle. “Let go of my horse,” said William dangerously.

Tom swallowed. In a moment William would try to get the horse’s head up. Tom felt in his apron pocket and brought out the crust of bread he had been eating. He showed it to the horse, which dipped its head and took a bite. “There’s more to be said, before you leave, my lord,” he said mildly.

William said, “Let my horse go, or I’ll take your head off.” Tom looked directly at him, trying not to show fear. He was bigger than William, but that would make no difference if the young lord drew his sword.

Agnes muttered fearfully, “Do as the lord says, husband.”

There was dead silence. The other workmen stood as still as statues, watching. Tom knew that the prudent thing would be to give in. But William had nearly trampled Tom’s little girl, and that made Tom mad, so with a racing heart he said: “You have to pay us.”

William pulled on the reins but Tom held the bridle tight, and the horse as distracted, nuzzling in Tom’s apron pocket for more food. “Apply to my father for your wages!” William said angrily.

Tom heard the carpenter say in a terrified voice: “We’ll do that, my lord, thanking you very much.”

Wretched coward, Tom thought, but he was trembling himself. Nevertheless he forced himself to say: “If you want to dismiss us, you must pay us, according to the custom. Your father’s house is two days’ walk from here, and when we arrive he may not be there.”

“Men have died for less than this,” William said. His cheeks reddened with anger.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tom saw the squire drop his hand to the hilt of his sword. He knew he should give up now, and humble himself, but there was an obstinate knot of anger in his belly, and as scared as he was he could not bring himself to release the bridle. “Pay us first, then kill me,” he said recklessly. “You may hang for it, or you may not; but you’ll die sooner or later, and then I will be in heaven and you will be in hell.”

The sneer froze on William’s face and he paled. Tom was surprised: what had frightened the boy? Not the mention of hanging, surely: it was not really likely that a lord would be hanged for the murder of a craftsman. Was he terrified of hell?

They stared at one another for a few moments. Tom watched with amazement and relief as William’s set expression of anger and contempt melted away, to be replaced with panicked anxiety. At last William took a leather purse from his belt and tossed it to his squire, saying: “Pay them.”

At that point Tom pushed his luck. When William pulled on the reins again, and the horse lifted its strong head and stepped sideways, Tom moved with the horse and held on to the bridle, and said: “A full week’s wages on dismissal, as is the custom.” He heard a sharp intake of breath from Agnes, just behind him, and he knew she thought he was crazy to prolong the confrontation. But he plowed on. “That’s sixpence for the laborer, twelve for the carpenter and each of the masons, and twenty-four pence for me. Sixty-six pence in all.” He could add pennies faster than anyone he knew.

The squire was looking inquiring at his master. William said angrily: “Very well.”

Tom released the bridle and stepped back.

William turned the horse and kicked it hard, and it bounded forward onto the path through the wheat field.

Tom sat down suddenly on the woodpile. He wondered what had got into him. It had been mad to defy Lord William like that. He felt lucky to be alive.

The hoof beats of William’s war-horse faded to a distant thunder, and his squire emptied the purse onto a board. Tom felt a surge of triumph as the silver pennies tumbled out into the sun-shine. It had been mad, but it had worked: he had secured just payment for himself and the men working under him. “Even lords ought to follow customs,” he said, half to himself.

Agnes heard him. “Just hope you’re never in want of work from Lord William,” she said sourly.

Tom smiled at her. He understood that she was churlish because she was frightened. “Don’t frown too much, or you’ll have nothing but curdled milk in your breasts when that baby is born.”

“I won’t be able to feed any of us unless you find work for the winter.”

“The winter’s a long way off,” said Tom.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2567 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1631)

4 Star

(514)

3 Star

(228)

2 Star

(82)

1 Star

(112)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 2579 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 2579 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)