Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Pillars of the Earth

by Ken Follett
My dad VERY highly recommended this book, so I thought I'd give it a go. In fact, I think he might have said that it was the best book ever. Or maybe the obnoxious book-seller in Coombs said that. Either way, Dad loved it, I read it and now here is the review.
Pillars of the Earth is a fascinating story set in Medieval England and is mainly the story of a village that becomes a cathedral town. It is also the story of cathedral building, and the development of Gothic architecture. And it's the story of the builders, monks, priests and citizens of the town and the cathedral.
I LOVE architecture. It's one of my many many favourite topics, and one of the reasons I'm drawn to visit Europe is to view the cathedrals of the Gothic builders. They were build to honour God, they pushed technology and art. The cathedrals were true life works that took decades to complete.
Pillars of the Earth feels like a similar undertaking. I feel like I've been reading it for MONTHS. This is partly because I've been reading the hardcover, which makes it too heavy to read when travelling - my best reading times. But it's also because the story has an extremely lethargic start. The story lacks the lightness, the grace, and the openess of the cathedrals it describes.
Which is not to say Pillars of the Earth isn't compelling. It builds momentum to the point where I finished it last night at 3 in the morning because I couldnt stop reading. But it takes SO long to get where it's going that there were plenty of times I wanted to give up. In fact, I think the story could be edited down by about 20% without damage to the plot or the characters. But if you've time on your hands, this is a good way to spend it.
Just don't go in expecting a quick read.

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