Ken Follett: The PIllars of the Earth
I initially bought this book on the enthusiastic recommendation of a Hasting’s clerk. So, I wound up being leery of it for some reason — and then it languished on my shelf for more than a year. Maybe two. So, when I was finally low on reading material I gave it a try. I was very pleased and am now serious about chasing down other Follet works.
The main protagonists are Tom Builder and his stepson Jack Jackson. (Follet is probably not lecturing on the “interesting names for your novel’s characters” tour.) Tom’s lifelong’s vision is to be appointed master builder of a cathedral church, and everything is set against him living this dream. Losing work, wife, and child he presses on. As tragedy leads to tragedy his stepson helps Tom become master builder: Jack burns a monastery church to the ground.
Several disparate characters’ lives are masterfully woven together while the monastic Catholic church and a war-torn medieval England serve as the story’s backdrop. There are truly malicious characters here, serving their own self-centered ends, blindly following what they believe are Divine mandates. There are truly compassionate characters, blindly conceited characters, politically motivated power-mongers, strong-willed men and women, and families as dysfunctional as any I’ve ever seen. Somehow it all hangs together and near the end of the story I was hating the antagonists and loving the protagonists. Without seeming too conflicted, Follet manages to show redeeming value in some antagonists while simultaneously tarnishing the protagonists.
All in all, this was a deep and beautiful work. I will never look at a church the same again, especially if it has any of those famed “flying buttresses!” Read this book and reflect on how the pursuit of a passion larger than our selves deepens and strengthens us–whether for good or ill.
[tags]BlogRodent, Ken-Follett, Pillars-of-the-Earth, fiction, review, books[/tags]