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The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth #1)

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4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  334,925 ratings  ·  22,219 reviews
The spellbinding epic set in twelfth-century England,The Pillars of the Earthtells the story of the lives entwined in the building of the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known—and a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother. ...more
Paperback, 973 pages
Published February 4th 2002 by NAL Trade (first published 1989)
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Best Books Ever
55th out of 33,071 books — 129,252 voters
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Best Historical Fiction
3rd out of 4,293 books — 17,744 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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DeLaina
I devour books. That is my euphemism for being so OCD that I can't put it down and live my life until I finish it. For shorter books, that's generally not a problem, but for the 974 page Pillars of the Earth...well, let's just say we ran out of food, my children clung to my legs asking for food, and the floors did not get vacuumed for a good five days while I whittled away at this book.

CLIFF HANGER: This book is not a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter kind of book, which makes it easier t
...more
Amanda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Francine
I did not hate this book (hate would be too strong a word, and I can't hate it because I applaud the fact that Ken Follett attempted to write an epic novel). But I did not like it. I didn't like it from the start; his writing style hit me like a brick, but Jim thoroughly enjoyed the book that I kept trying to convince myself that I ought to give it a chance, hoping it would get better. When I was about 500 pages in, he saw how miserable I was and asked why I didn't just stop reading it, but at t ...more
amelia
Nov 18, 2007 amelia rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one! apparently oprah fans
This is seriously one of the worst books I've ever read. The only reason I finished the book is because I cannot put a book down once I start.

The writing is terrible. The plotting may be dramatic, but I had almost zero interest in any of the characters; they seem to exist merely for events to happen to them, like actors in a disaster movie. Beyond that there seemed to be three characters in the book: Bad guy, good guy, and good victimized-yet-able-to -overcome girl.

What got me most was: Ken Foll
...more
Troy
Ahem.
"Pillars of the Earth" is a very long book. It's got a lot of soap-opera-like twists and turns - no amnesia, but just about everything else, including mistaken identities, illicit marriages, illicit lack of marriage, illegitimate children, questionable parentage, love triangles, revenge, greed, power, a few murders, rape, witches, politics, knights, swords and horsies. OK, that last bit is not so soap-opera-like. There's also lots and lots of architecture. And it's a very long book.

Main sto
...more
Dan Schwent
Confession time: This is not a book I would have picked out for myself. First of all, look at the size of this kitten squisher! Second of all, Amanda's hate-filled review of it is one of my favorite reviews on Goodreads. However, it's one of my girlfriend's favorite books and when she suggested I give it a read, I knew what was good for me. Lucky for me, I enjoyed it.

Pillars of the Earth is a multigenerational tale about the construction of a cathedral in a fictitious English town in the 1100s.
...more
Jax
Jul 11, 2008 Jax rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People with iron wills and a surfeit of free time.
Recommended to Jax by: My mother, who thought I'd like the cover art.
Shelves: awful
A massive tome with a spine thicker than Arnold Schwartzenegger’s forearm, Pillars looks intimidating enough to make even the most avid readers wary; its 973 pages are densely packed with unforgiving walls of 8-point text with nary a line break in sight. Before I was more than a hundred pages in, however, it became apparent that length was among the least of this behemoth of a book’s problems.

Follett's concept—a medieval, generation-spanning epic built around the construction of a cathedral—is
...more
StoryTellerShannon
A tapestry of medieval cathedrals centered around an epic drama and some would term it melodrama but that's open to debate.



Ken Follet actually wanted to write this book years before it was published. But his agent told him to build up his base of fans by writing several more thrillers. His EYE OF THE NEEDLE pushed him up to the best seller list.

At a later point, after writing those novels and studying medieval cathedral architecture, Follet got to write his 900 page novel centering around the
...more
Misfit
I know I'm going to be in the minority here, but this is truly one of the worst books I have ever read. I came so close to throwing the book across the room on several occasions, and ended up skipping through many pages just to get to the final and not too surprising finish.

The characters were flat and lifeless and seemed to have been transplanted from the 20th century into medieval England. The book was rife with unnecessary profanity that in no way enhanced the storyline and obscene gratuitou
...more
Kay
How does one review a book that one cannot even describe?

So many times after gushing about how good Pillars was, people ask me, What’s it about?

And I, swirling in the happy aftermath of a mind so blown away that it’s still traveling near the speed of light, struggle to gather what’s left of analytical thinking and dumbly blurt, “Um, it’s about building this cathedral…”

[image error]

Way to not to sell a book.

I still have trouble really describing Pillars in a way that satisfies. Because while it i
...more
Michael
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephen
6.0 stars. An absolutely amazing reading experience. This one may actually make it on to my "All Time Favorite" list. I listened to the audio version of this book, which means just over 40 hours of content, and when it was finished, I actually believed it should have been LONGER. This book grabbed me from the opening pages and kept me interested and engaged throughout the entire novel (a very rare feet for a 1000 page novel). With as much as I had heard about this book, I went into it with very ...more
Tina
I finally finished this book and I loved it!!

The characters were interesting, flawed, and complex. The storyline was captivating, intricate, and exciting. I think that because the story was told from the point of view of many characters (5 or 6, I think), the author was able to show so much more of what was going on in many different places at the same time. Also, the length of the book allowed for a lot of time to pass (almost 50 years). I love how the author incorporated some actual historical
...more
Michael
The duck swallows the worm, the fox kills the duck, the men shoot the fox, and the devil hunts the men.
-William Hamleigh, The Pillars of the Earth

This is probably the fifth review I've started for The Pillars of the Earth. The first thing you'll notice is that it's a long read, 900+ pages. Whenever I've attacked a book with similar length I've usually felt that the author was trying to impress me with his big phallic novel, as though the book were really about the size of the book and his abilit
...more
Patricia
Nov 16, 2007 Patricia rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
Hmmm... a family relation lent me this book. I was mostly interested in what kind of books my particular relation was into. I think you can learn a lot about a person by reading their favorite books. I am actually a little disturbed. Yes you may call me a prude, but there was sex in it. I know what your thinking... thats not a shocker. But its not just sex... it is violent sex. It has several graphic rape scenes. And I have to admit violence to women frightens me.
I don't need that graphic of an
...more
Kira Fisher
i can't stress enough how not good this book was. (everett says he likes it that i pan books, so he will be pleased with this review.)

where does one start when explaining what makes a piece of shit unpleasant? is it the smell? is it the origins? is it its inherent turdness?

this book is inherently a turd.

mr follett's preface says that people have told him it is the best book they have ever read, and i have to seriously question what they're comparing it to. sweet valley high? maybe, but not neces
...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: As a new age dawns in England's twelfth century, the building of a mighty Gothic cathedral sets the stage for a story of intrigue and power, revenge and betrayal. It is in this rich tapestry, where kings and queens are corrupt - and one majestic creation will bond them forever.

Honest. That's all of it. I guess they figure if you haven't read it by now, you ain't a-gonna?

My Review: This was a group read on LibraryThing in 2009...I joined in because I haven't
...more
Lianna
Toward the end of this 1000 page book I noticed the ad for the equally non-descript titled SEQUEL released 17 years after Pillars. This raises a lot of questions. What kind of author leaves his fans hanging for 17 years? Can there possibly be anything left unsaid after 1000 pages? Is this why Follett looks so smug on the back cover w/his black turtleneck?

Maybe in the sequel he'll explain why he couldn't find room in the story for Martha after age 6. She was my favorite character and she got mayb
...more
Lucy
I hated this book. Let's just get that out of the way so there is no confusion later on.

Ken Follett describes a gloomy, dismal, nearly barbaric society whose citizens' greatest concerns seem to be their egos and their lust for power and control. He uses the building of the great European cathedrals as the impetus for his story; the magnificent structures were made possible through trickery, lies, greed, criminal acts and selfish ambition. Forget about the Glory of God...that's just history's cov
...more
Fiona
Phew, finished!

I put this book of for so long that I'm angry I deprived myself of a good read for so many months. This is a book you can sit down, wrap yourself up in and exclude the rest of the world for a bit.

Follett is not a historical author, he usually writes thillers and this reflects in his style of writing. The sentences are short and almost clumsy, which after a while can be grating on your nerves. He has this habit of explaining everything to you as if you couldn't understand a pretty
...more
Danny
Jan 19, 2009 Danny rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers of very long/unending series
Shelves: terrible-tomes
(one minor spoiler ahead, reader beware...)

I started this book without too much expectation but between the self-congratulatory introduction that the author gave to his book and learning part way through that it had become an Oprah pick I must admit that I mentally raised the bar a bit.

Unfortunately, I found the book fell short...

I was very interested through about the first half of the book, it is clear that Follett writes thrillers in his other life and some of the initial action scenes were f
...more
Mark
First thing to say....Richard E Grant is a fantastic narrator. There was not a single squirmingly awful accent....Derek Jacobi take note. His women characters were not voiced by men doing silly soppy voices as if that communicated woman but were voiced in such a way that you believed the characterization and it did not jar as inane, patronizing or laughable. He communicated tension and horror, sadness and despair, injustice and vengeance, adoration and admiration, grief and fear and frustration ...more
Daniel
When a book offers nearly 1,000 pages of story, I expect, at the least, an epic sweep to the proceedings. Characters of interest are nice; characters with depth--even better. Some insight into the world around us and its many complicated workings would get me thinking--and I really like a book that makes me think. A fully-realized literary landscape--one that takes the reader to a place that can only exist in the printed word--would overjoy me. Big books offer a big promise: check out my story, ...more
Lindley
Ken Follett, best known for his novels of political espionage such as The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games, steps into a new genre with his epic saga, The Pillars of the Earth. Set in England during the latter part of the 12th century, Pillars presents a sweeping tale of medieval feudal life. The story centers around Prior Philip, a sincere and devoted monk who desires to honor God through the building of a cathedral. The plethora of characters whose lives readers will follow include citi ...more
JG (The Introverted Reader)
To be very simplistic, The Pillars of the Earth is about building a cathedral in the twelfth century in England. But to say that would be doing this book a huge disservice. The building of the cathedral serves as a cornerstone to explore the lives of an intriguing cast of characters and how life was lived at that point in history.

I wasn't too sure what to expect going into this. I just had a vague idea that it was about building a cathedral, and let's face it: to a dedicated reader of fiction th
...more
jzhunagev
Aug 07, 2011 jzhunagev rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction and Ken Follett fans
Recommended to jzhunagev by: Oprah's Book Club
Historical Fiction at its Finest!
(A Book review of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth)


First introduced to me as a 2007 book selection by the Oprah Book Club, The Pillars of the Earth remains of one Ken Follett’s bestselling books (so far) with an estimated 100, 000 copies sold every year in the United States alone, and is one of his works whom hordes of fans consider as his towering masterpiece. The novel has recently received worldwide recognition and has topped the charts in Italy, England
...more
Karla
As I read Pillars of the Earth, it crossed my mind more than once that what I was reading was a wordy, hacktacular mess.

That said, I still enjoyed it.

Maybe it's got pretensions of epic grandeur with gorilla dumps of Cathedral Building 101, and writing that lays there like a dead fish, but buried in all the didactic architectural yammering and unimaginative wordsmithery there was the kind of trashy, cheesy melodrama that I absolutely love. It can excuse a wealth of narrative sins if I'm in the ri
...more
Lauren
Dec 26, 2007 Lauren rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who seek mindless narratives
Even though Ken Follett's so-called "masterpiece" has received so much popular appraisal (like the sales-boosting membership to Oprah's Book Club), I have to say I don't really see the novel's appeal beyond some decent medieval research and adequate character development. Spanning the length of most of the 12th century, Pillars of the Earth is yet another epic novel that follows several generations of the same families, members of whom seem to be simple reincarnations of their ancestors. In 900+ ...more
Jason Koivu
Want to know how it feels to build a cathedral? Read the monumentally huge book The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. By the time you're done - and it will be a LONG time - you will feel as if you've spent the better part of your life on it. The details are marvelous and intricate. The love story is intriguing and captivating. The length of this sucker is unnecessary and exhausting. Tighten it up a hundred or so pages and Pillars... gets 5 stars hands down.

Kanawinkie
Admittedly, I haven’t read any of Follett’s other works. In fact, I can’t say I’ve heard of him as an author before this. And really, I only decided to read this book because my mum practically pushed it into my lap and said “YOU NEED TO READ THIS!”
I do love myself a good piece of historical fiction though, so really, it wasn’t very difficult to convince me to read.

Also unusual for me, I read the forward by the artist that was in the beginning of the book. Usually I’ll skip things like that and
...more
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Which one is better? 14 164 Oct 10, 2014 10:10AM  
TV Series on Pillars of the Earth 35 413 Oct 09, 2014 04:16PM  
Read or watch Pillars of the Earth first 46 161 Oct 02, 2014 11:56AM  
Were you satisfied with the Ending? 7 42 Sep 26, 2014 08:02PM  
The Corliss Group Review: EVOC polkupyörällä pussi review 1 9 Aug 30, 2014 08:15PM  
why cant I read this book!?!? 29 368 Aug 29, 2014 07:49PM  
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3447
Ken Follett burst onto the book world in 1978 with Eye of the Needle, a taut and original thriller with a memorable woman character in the central role. The book won the Edgar award and became an outstanding film.

He went on to write four more bestselling thrillers: Triple; The Key to Rebecca; The Man from St Petersburg; and Lie Down with Lions.

He also wrote On Wings of Eagles, the true story of ho
...more
More about Ken Follett...
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1) World Without End (The Pillars of the Earth, #2) Eye of the Needle Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy #2) A Dangerous Fortune

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“Having faith in God did not mean sitting back and doing nothing. It meant believing you would find success if you did your best honestly and energetically.” 186 likes
“The most expensive part of building is the mistakes.” 151 likes
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