My mum ran out of books in a spa hotel we stayed at last year and found in the book exchange The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. She really enjoyed it and insisted I read it afterwards. I wasn’t keen given it was 1000 pages long, would be heavy to carry and looked a bit like pulp fiction. But in the Autumn I eventually got round to it and enjoyed it hugely (as I had other medieval crime fiction I’ve blogged on in the past).
It follows the story of a family of masons determined to be part of the building of a great Cathedral, alongside the story of a young and ambitious monk determined to run a monastery in a new fair, sensible and Godly way and to build a new community around it. The subject matter and the period it is set in are both absolutely fascinating. It covers a thirty year period in twelfth century England, a period rife with famine, war, uncertainty and insecurity.
Through the characters it follows, you see how the religious, monarchical and political battles of the time play out and how they affect ordinary people. And for those of us who grew up in the shadows of great Cathedrals, as I did in Winchester, it makes you realise just what an incredibly feat of engineering that their building was. The fortunes of the characters rise and fall and you find yourself rooting for them and for the successful building of their Cathedral. It’s utterly engrossing and the 1000 pages go very quickly indeed once the initial characters have been introduced.
This is absolutely a must read in my opinion – an unlikely one I admit – but it is really well written, really gripping and unlike anything else I have ever read.