The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

Up front I have to admit, I didn’t finish this one.  I didn’t even come close.  While I was debating whether to go on, a law school friend posted on Facebook about his love of Follett’s books and encouraged me to keep reading, but I just couldn’t.

Why?  I am very picky about fiction, and I hadn’t read much historical fiction before.  I like the concept, but this book felt like it was cramming in history at the expense of the fiction.  Not so much historical facts as historical color about what the cathedral town might be like.  That’s interesting, but you could have an entire book about the rhythms of life in a cathedral town, and it feels excessive to jam it into 10 pages that are also supposed to be a chase scene.

But the real probably was that I just didn’t like the fiction.  The actual or near death of 2 seemingly main characters in the first 2-3 chapters was unwelcome toying with my emotions (part of why I avoid fiction – life is hard enough without grieving over the fates of fictional characters).  The relationship between two other characters was so spelled out, along the lines of “he felt a stirring in his loins” and “who was this strange woman”, that I felt like a 14 year old me, trying to write a romance novel, would have produced similar work.  Actually, the novel overall reminded me strongly of an actual 8th grade social studies project, “A Day in the Life of a Noblewoman”.  The only characters about which I felt curiousity were the monks, but it wasn’t enough to face another 500 pages.

I know Follett’s books are wildly popular, but I just don’t see it.  Anyone want to explain?

4 responses to “The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

  1. Skip the doorstop and read EYE OF THE NEEDLE instead.

  2. I read the entire book over my Christmas Holiday. I enjoyed the extended timeline and most of the characters. There were many points where I was downright bothered by the ‘historical eroticism’. In the end, I felt the text assumed an uncomfortable middleground between The Source and Lady Chatterly’s Lover.

  3. I actually read this book and thought it was pretty good. I do like historical fiction, although when they run close to 1000 pages, I do need to space them out some. The book was a little slow to get into and I did debate whether or not to put it down. Towards the end of the book, the last half to last quarter, the book does pick up a bit, gets a a bit suspensful, and losses some of the crudeness. Not my favorite historical fiction but I do plan on reading the sequel at some point. I completely understand what you are saying about the book but the story line does come together nicely at the end and the historical aspects come a bit more into play towards the end.

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