A friend of mine raved about The Pillars of the Earth. Although it is 1,000 pages, she claimed to have sailed through it in less than a week. Well, it took me three months. Not because it was long, but because I found the story lame, the characters cardboard and some serious lapse in accuracy in terms of language. Although it takes place in the 14th century, the people in the book had a modern sensibility, and the hero and heroine seemed to be very 21st century. Some people don’t mind this, but it always bothers me.
The plot reminded me of a Wily Coyote/Road Runner cartoon. The bad guys kept pushing the plot along by coming up with another nefarious scheme to destroy the good guys. There was little character development; either the character wore a white hat or a black hat.
On the plus side, I didn’t know anything about that period in English history and had never heard of Queen Maude or King Stephen so I was inspired to do some research on them … especially when the story was really dragging.
The book opens with a man being hanged, then the story jumps ahead a few years. At the end of the 1,000-page book, we are told he was killed to cover up an assassination. This is interesting information from a historical perspective, but didn’t really relate to characters in the story who were for the most part focused on their own survival and building a cathedral town.
This book actually reminds me of one I read years ago by Edward Rutherford called Sarum. I would pick up Sarum if you’d like to read an historical novel about a cathedral town in England. This one actually starts with the aboriginal people, moves through Druids, Romans, etc. to World War II in a southern England town.
I don’t recommend Pillars of the Earth. Maybe I was disappointed that a book as hyped as this one wasn’t well-written. But if you are an English history junkie, you might still enjoy it.
(Ken Follett has written some great suspense novels that I loved. If you have a chance, read Eye of the Needle or The Key to Rebecca if you are looking for a great read)