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Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: The Pillars of the Earth

Title: The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
Page Count: 973 pages
Publisher: New American Library
Genre: historical fiction
Copy for review was one I owned already

50 words or less: This epic follows the lives, loves and losses of a cross-sampling of people living in Medieval England. Politics, love, marriage, religion, architecture, family, obligation, honor, it's all in here somewhere.

This book was a beast. It was long, it was involved, there were a ton of characters, and the story spans decades. It's not a book to read when you're tired, and the pace can sometimes be grueling, just the pace of real life can sometimes be grueling. It's not a book that everyone will enjoy; if you don't really enjoy historical fiction laced with details and many, many layers, it's probably a book to leave on the shelf.

With all that said, Pillars of the Earth is a meaty read that is an excellent palette cleanser if you tend to read a lot of less serious books and are looking for something to really wrap your mind around (like me.) It's not a one-sitting book by any stretch; reading it in sections is definitely the way to go.

The author works hard to create a detailed, authentic-feeling world that brings the Middle Ages to life. It's not a pretty world; this is a violent book and the author doesn't shy away from sexual violence as well. The characters have their flaws and plenty of them, and the unforeseen effects of their plotting and scheming help to illustrate the themes of the book very vividly.

If you have some background knowledge of the history and the politics in play in the book it definitely adds to the experience, but it's not absolutely necessary to understanding the book. It's actually really hard to write concisely about this book and the stories it contains because there's so much to talk about. This is the kind of book you could read every few years and see it through new eyes every time.

This book is a major investment of time and effort, but it's worth it at the end. I found myself in turns angry, happy, frustrated, bored, excited, sad, you name it. At the end of it all, I felt accomplished, since this was a major undertaking.

Overall Grade: A

As if that wasn't enough, finishing this book means I can check another title off my list of books for the Fall into Reading Challenge this year! I put a lot of meaty books on my list for this year, so getting through them is taking some time, but hopefully I can get through the other eight books by December 20th.


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This is one of those books I have meant t read and sadly have not yet. Thank you for the review. You remind of the great books out there that I have yet to introduce myself too. :)

S B Frank said...

One of my alltime faves, but I have to read it when I'm in a deep move. Great blog! Happy T-day.

Helen said...

Great review. I absolutely love that book, and the sequel, World Without End.

Emily said...

@Sheila, S B Frank, and Helen- Thanks for the comments, I'm glad you all enjoyed the book and/or the review!

Kah Woei said...

Yup, it took me about 2 weeks to finish this one and even though I didn't haven't any knowledge of the historical background, I had no problems understanding the story. But I only enjoyed the second half of the book though.

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