It takes more than 30 years to build the magnificent Kingsbridge Cathedral in this book; it took Ken Follet 3 years and 3 months to write this epic story, it took me 13 days to get to the end of this extraordinary tale.
In a time of civil war, famine and religious strife, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against this backdrop, lives entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age, the middle of the twelfth century, primarily during the time sometimes called the Anarchy, between the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket.
"The Pillars of the Earth" opens with a prologue that vaguely introduces future characters and a mystery that will gradually tie the numerous characters together. It is exciting, gripping and sets the expectations high all the time.
If I must be honest, my reading speed rose once the narration leaves Tom Builder and Follett begins to bring us into the major part of the story involving Brother Philip of St.-John-In-The-Forest. Philip is an incredibly engaging character, my best favourite with Jack Jackson and Aliena. Philip’s strong Christian conviction is honest without being preachy or pedantic. Jack Jackson is the sharply intelligent and rebellious son of charismatic (a witch?) Ellen, who brought him up in the forest; Archdeacon Waleran Bigod, the self-serving and double-dealing priest is just too slick for words; Aliena is the beautiful daughter of a fallen earl who reveals immediately as a fascinatingly admirable heroine and moreover as a strong brave young woman whose strength is underlined by the weakness and flaws of the brother she so much loves and always supports, Richard.Actually,n one of the protagonist is perfect - all have their flaws that make them undeniably human. Well, William Hamleigh is only wicked, incredibly wicked, unbearably stupid and wicked.
The story is long. It has to be - it's about the building of a Gothic cathedral, which takes twenty, thirty years to build . Everything that could go wrong does go wrong, as is to be expected with a project of such expanse and , especially, in such a troubled historical period. A seemingly endless series of twists and turns and disgraces flows under the reader’s eyes and you go on thinking, "Good Lord, what else could happen?" all the time.
However, it is an incredibly good story. A real page turner that won my suspicion and prejudice against best – sellers. Brilliant.
Any complain? The language. I find Ken Follett’s language quite elementary sometimes. Wanted or not, I find that he could have made diction a bit more refined. It is such a good story! But I can even understand that one thousand pages, with hundreds of thousands of words are not easy to cope with. I’m not a writer, I’m only a scribbler, but as I reader I highly appreciate a good choice of beautiful words.
Now I must, definitely must, see the series. Especially because Tom Builder is Rufus Sewell and Prior Philip is Matthew Mac Fadyen. I’ll start hunting immediately...