Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

This was one of those books I just couldn't put down. It's a historical epic about the building of a massive cathedral in 1100 England.

The book follows four different characters and their families as they cross paths over many years. It opens with a disturbing hanging and a curse called down by a distraught woman....

From there it follows the path of Tom Builder and his family as they travel on foot from town to town looking for work as a stone cutter and builder. Times are difficult and the family experiences terrible tragedy when Tom's wife Agnes dies. But, their luck seems to change as they happen into Kingsbridge the same day the wooden roof of the old tumble down church burns down. The church is completely destoryed and Tom helps Father Phillip, the head monk of the small village, decide what to do to begin to solve the church's problem. So begins the building of the most amazing chuch rural England has ever seen.

Follett makes the reader appreciate the intricate detail and incredible work that the ancient builders experienced when creating their masterpieces. I'm not a builder, but I enjoyed the description of the hand labor that was required.

This incredible creation of beauty is surrounded by the squalor of the living conditions of many peasants of the day. The dicotome ( great word, right) of these two lives comes into play as Aliana enters the tale. She is the spoiled daughter of an Earl who loses his position when his castle is overtaken by William, a bully and a thug. This is allowed because of the political times. As William comes to claim the castle he also claims Aliana for his own by brutally raping her. Aliana and her brother Richard are penniless and lost. Yet, Aliana is resourceful and devises a way to regain some of their wealth by gathering the wool of the local farmers and taking it to market. Only to find that the sellers will not deal fairly with a young girl. Enter Father Phillip, he becomes the go between for the wool. And both Aliana and the Prior at Kingsbridge become very wealthy.

All of that takes about the first 100 pages of a 900+ page book.

It is so worth it!! I was enthralled from beginning to end! This is one I would gladly recommend for those who want to be lost in another time and life. It made me appreciate my hot shower, warm food and privacy!!

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