Monday, May 6, 2013

Ken Follett - The Pillars of the Earth

In a time of civil war, famine and religious strife, there rises a magnificent Cathedral in Kingsbridge. Against this backdrop, lives entwine: Tom, the master builder, Aliena, the noblewoman, Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge, Jack, the artist in stone and Ellen, the woman from the forest who casts a curse. At once, this is a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age.

Comment: I borrowed this book from a friend. She really likes this kind of books (epic historicals I mean) and of course she raved about this one a lot. I wasn't very eager to read it despite the good critics because epic books tend to have a particularity that sometimes annoys me, which is making us care for the characters and because so much time passes while we see them live, usually someone dies or has the worst luck in the world. It's very annoying to see characters you love die tragically.
Anyway, I decided to try simply to ease my conscience, after all I didn't have to buy it, right?
I've read it in Portuguese and here the publisher divided the book in two, to be easier to carry. Of course, the price is the same as if it were two books in the first place which makes this a real deal for them, like the reader has no other option. I applaud their reasons, just not they execution...

This is the epic story of how a generation sees the construction of a cathedral in the medieval times. It's about how a group of people with no apparent connection see themselves wrapped in the challenges of living and surviving in a society that stands heavily on religion and difficulties. The characters take us in a voyage through their lives and how that impacts the reality around them.

I liked the story, overall. I didn't think it was that great, I wasn't as impressed as many people claimed to be, but I recognize it was a solid story, with many interesting and educative elements. 
The research shows and I very interested in knowing more about cathedrals although some of that technical part, such as how the plant should be set and how the arches had to be built and so on was a bit lost on me as I don't have much talent for that. But it was vital to make the story more elaborate and precise and it was filled with important facts, so I didn't mind all the descriptions.
Of course, the historical setting and the details about that time of the English real history were very interesting and it was brilliant to see the storyline inserted in that period.

The characters were the real strength in the story. Their lives and their beliefs and how their personalities would push them towards certain attitudes...I loved the heroes and hated the villains like it's expected and I was glad to see what became of them all, to a point. There was one character I wasn't fond of but I thought should have got a different destiny. Alfred was portrayed as a bully in training, but not all the time. He could have gotten a different life, a different personality. It suited some parts of the story for him to get bad, but he had a good family, a good example, why did he had to end up a bad guy? I was really angry over this,because the way I see it, the author used him to allow other things to happen and I just think his character could have been different and better.

There are many things in the book I thought were done great. I especially liked how the good guys were a step ahead of the villains many times. When the opposite happened I was more annoyed than mad because in a way I could put myself aside from that. I did cry here and there, but all in all, I wasn't that emotional over the story and I think it's one of the reasons I could be more than happy with the book but not overwhelmed. I mean, I recognize the strength of the story but it was only god for me.

Having now read the two types of stories this author writes, historicals and mysteries, I have to say they're both at the same level for me. I mean, I enjoy them, I spend some good time with them, but they don't leave me breathless and eager to read more. I suspect some time will pass before I feel I have to read another book by him. And I can always count on my friend for the epic ones.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,sorry I've been MIA, my computer crashed!
    I've read these and enjoyed them at the time. It's the only book I've read by Follett but I've been curious to try him in a different period...