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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 11 April 2002
Right from the off this book draws you in.It's basically about a man whose dream is to build a cathedral.That might not sound too gripping but there is so much more to this novel than that.You follow the lives of the characters,share with them their highs and their lows over a period of time from 1123 to 1174.The narrative is superb and you will not be bored by too much historical information,though you will learn quite a lot about the way people lived their lives during the 12th century.To sum up:If you like historical fiction then you will love this book.
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on 11 January 2006
Most authors have one book that stands out, their one true masterpiece, and this is Follett's!
This epic saga of love, betrayal and revenge will have you hanging on every word. The books sheer volume at first is daunting, but once you have read the first page you will find yourself invited into one of the richest pieces of writing I have ever read!
The Pillars of the earth will entwine you in an emotional web, leaving you wanting to cry and smile, and pay your own revenge on one of the most heartless characters i've ever got to know! It is heart wrenching on times and sheer joy on others.
The descriptions of building the Cathederal, the main tone of the book are awe inspiring. I simply cant look at a Church or Cathederal now without being mesmerised by its beauty and craftsmanship that went into it.
I have read a great many books and this is my number one without a doubt! A true epic in the entire sense of the word. If you only read one book in your lifetime, it's got to be this one!
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on 22 April 2003
This is one of the best historical novels I've read. It's impossible to put down: you'll want to read just another page, just another chapter... (I even sneaked at it at work).
I had never read anything by Ken Follett, having the idea that he wrote mostly what I think of as "beach and pool best-sellers" but a friend recommended "Pillars" and I'm really glad he did! I'm even prepared to reconsider and read something else by Follett but I have a feeling this is probably his best work.
I was so sad to let go of the characters that when I finished the book I had to look for more info on XII century England, cathedrals and Thomas Becket: all subjects that had never interested me before!
Just buy the book: it's one of the best reads you can have!
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on 7 June 2011
I had high hopes of this book, said to be a great popular success, one of Britain's best-loved books.
In fact, it was a huge disappointment.
It's about the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. The cathedral is the inspiration of Prior Philip and Master Builder Tom. After Tom's death the construction is supervised by his step-son Jack.
It's a long story - over 1000 pages - but seems no longer than a normal book because the writing is poor and all I could do was skim-read it. And in spite of the many twists in the plot, it's extremely predictable.
Only Philip and Tom are well-developed believable characters, everyone else is a stock type. The main female characters are beautiful, feisty, independent, and seem to have been parachuted in from late 20th century fiction. The main villain, William of Hamleigh, is a boo-hiss pantomime villain without a single redeeming feature.
There are a few good things about the book. The historical background is explained well, and makes sense. The book takes place mainly during the reign of King Stephen 1135-1154, a particularly turbulent time.
Action scenes are well described, in particular the taking of Earlscastle by William of Hamleigh, the Battle of Lincoln and the murder in the cathedral (ie Thomas Becket).

The book is written (except for the sex and violence) as if for a child, with simple plodding prose and dialogue and frequent repetitions and summaries of plot to help the hard of understanding.
Follett is one of those writers who having made his name in one field (thrillers) now turns to another genre. Stick to the thrillers, Ken.
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on 12 July 2005
I defy anyone who has read this book not to give exactly the same review as those others listed here:
- The best book you have ever read
- A stunning plot line which twists and turns to the very end
- Un-put-downable
- A book you have read umpteen times since the first time and it still grips you with every new reading
- A book you have recommended to all your friends, all of whom have come back and said exactly the same as above.
Can't give it any greater recommendation - I have read literally thousands of books and this one will always be my number one.
About to order my third copy - this time in hardback - in the hope that I will be able to read it another 100 times without the cover falling off!!
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VINE VOICEon 20 February 2013
I know its a failing in me. If I've invested in a book I have to see it through to the end, and this one required rather more teeth-gritting than is entirely healthy.
I love well-written historical fiction (see Patrick O'Brien) but this was the most unbelievable tosh.
Bernard Cornwell on a bad day making an unholy tryst with Dame Barbara Cartland and a very VERY sub-standard D.H.Lawrence.
Another reviewer refers to the two-dimensional nature of the characters: this is an exaggeration... all the characters are barely one-dimensional, there is little or no psychological development(astonishing considering the time-scale covered by this novel) and they are all either unbelievably good or unremmitingly bad.
I gave a a couple of stars for the descriptions of the Cathedral-building, but then I remembered those endless, passionless, colourless, distincly unerotic,cold, clincal sex scenes, and knocked a star off! You can see them coming a mile off, the bells clang, the sirens sound, the hooters blare (no pun intended) and you know you're in for a very trying time indeed!
If a reader is really interested in the Early English Cathedral as a literary journey, may I strongly recommend William Golding's 'The Spire': rather more challenging and rather less a Medieval East Enders.
Save yourself a considerable amount of time and pass this one by!
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on 22 January 2008
I've just finished the book and I liked it very much. I've been burning midnight oil: the story is really captivating. It's really good entertainment and I'm happy with that. I've enjoyed the depiction of the everyday life in the Medieval Ages and it had me browsing history books to refresh my memory (a little chronology of real-life events of the time appended to the novel would have come handy to me). However, after getting used to the plot, you can see quite clearly the way the writer works. All the events in the book follow more or less the same pattern. And I hate to say that, but some of the events seem far-fetched, or not plausible at all: (WARNING! SPOILER: who would fall in love instantly with a starving family and leave everything behind, who would fall in love instantly the very morning when his dear wife passes away? And there are many many things like this in the book. Also, the bit about the hike of a woman on her own with a baby through Europe was a bit too much, too easy and too short for me really. There is another bit which has annoyed me, but I can't tell you, otherwise I'd be saying too much END OF SPOILER). Events happen to the heroes in a timely manner, which makes me think, well... it is a little bit too easy. I haven't liked the shortcuts sometimes abruptly used to tell us "... oh by the way, I hadn't told you, but they are now a happy bunch because this happened to them, full stop... I'm not gonna write another fifty pages about how that could happen and let me now get on with my story..." The characters are all black and white: the baddies are filthy scums and the goodies are glorified.
But, never mind, if you're after a good captivating read that will transport you in the medieval age, that is the book you need. And I shall say the book deserves most of the praise it has received and of course I'm on my way to read the sequel... ;o)
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on 24 August 2009
I heard rave reviews about this book from a lot of people, but I was really disappointed. It is, indeed, a page-turner, and a pretty fast moving summer read, if that is what you are after. But I had heard so much about its interesting historical context and insights into the development of cathedrals that I had expected it to be a bit meatier. I was especially annoyed that his characters are pretty much 21st century people plopped in a 15th century backdrop. They were strangely immune to the philosophies, prejudices and beliefs of their day and had a disconcerting habit of happening to invent whatever technology they happened to lack at the moment. It seemed like the author couldn't quite get his head around what it would be like to be a person at that period, and couldn't understand that they wouldn't think of the same solutions to problems that seem obvious today. One bright character manages to begin the industrial revolution, invent liberal secularism and revolutionize architecture all in one go. He makes Leonardo DaVinci look like a slouch.

Also, the author seemed to think that his readers have the attention span of a flea, and every chapter or so summarizes the entire book and reintroduces all the characters and their relationships, as if we didn't remember. Or perhaps it was Follet that didn't remember, since he seemed to use the same descriptions every time. Like wise for the repeated cut-and-paste sex scenes which he seemed to think were obligatory every 100 pages.
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on 27 June 2009
Fascinating in terms of how early cathedrals were built and making you look at them in a new way - hence the extra star.

But eesh, the story dragged and became overly repetitive with the same mistakes occurring throughout. I read this on the recommendation of a colleague - never again!
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on 10 September 2003
Pretty well all of the reviews you will read for Pillars of The Earth will contain statements that:
Prior to starting the book I didn't much fancy the subject matter.
After page one I was hooked.
It is the best book I have ever read.
I have read it umpteen times since.
I borrowed a copy, then had to buy one to keep.
The reason that these are so often repeated is that they are all so true. The copy loaned to me was passed around several friends, and the reaction of all readers has been the same. I do not know anybody who has read this book and does not rate it as the best they have ever read. This book does not fit within any genre by means of which you would usually be drawn your next read, and it is only by recommendation that you are likely to read it. Please be guided by the reviews that you will find in abundance for this book and treat yourself to a stunning read.
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