Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Pillars of the Earth [Follett]

Book: The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
Reason for Reading: book club
Genre: Fiction
Summary: Pillars is a historical novel about the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. Set in the middle of the 12th century, it traces events between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket. The book is told from the perspective of a few fictional characters (a stonemason, his step-son, a sadistic lord, a young lady and a prior) against the backdrop of actual historical events of the time.

Christine's Review: This book as many distinctions: selection for Oprah's book club in 2007, listed as no. 33 on BB'c Big Read (2003 survey with goal of finding the national most-loved book), Follett's best selling book to date (he is an accomplished writer of spy thrillers), the second most popular book ever in the history of Germany (second to the bible) and was named one of the '101 books to Read Before You Die.' Needless to say-with all these accolades, I had high expectations. After completing the book (all 900+ pages), I was not impressed.

My primary complaints with this book were the writing style, repetitiveness and the unrealistic situations. The story takes place in the 1100s yet it was written with modern language. I can forgive that to a point, but in one section, a female character is referred to as "hot." Granted, I wasn't alive in the 1100s, but I doubt that term was used to describe physical attractiveness.

Next, the repetitiveness. I estimate the book could have been reduced by one hundred pages (if not more) if Follett did not repeat himself constantly. He felt the need to drill physical characteristics down the readers throat at every opportunity: "she was ugly, she had curly hair." A note to Follett-we get it! Yes, it is a long book but readers are capable of retaining basic tidbits. He also rehashed the plot summary at the beginning of certain chapters which was completely unnecessary.

Finally, there were many unrealistic situations in the book. I realize this is a work of fiction but some things just did not mesh. For example-one of the main characters, Tom Builder sees his wife die shortly after childbirth, and then the following night has sex with another woman (Ellen) and declares his love for her. What?? Speaking of Ellen-we are told that she has been living in the forest with her son Jack (she supposably gave birth to him in the forest) for years. She meets Tom Builder, his pregnant wife and 2 kids walking through the forest (did I mention that are all emaciated and starving) and decides to seduce him after his wife dies. She supposably has fallen in love with him after one meeting. Ellen has also survived in the forest for almost 10 years with no assistance, but once she starts traveling with Tom Builder, she and her son are starving. They must have had some hunting skills that they could have leveraged!

Overall, this book was long, repetitive and downright ridiculous at times. The characters were one dimensional and there were major plot holes. I have no idea how or why this book has received so many rave reviews. If you have the time to dedicate to reading, there are much better books out there.

Recommend? No, don't waste your time!

Book Junkie's Grade: D

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