Deborah Biancotti's Reviews > The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
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's review
Jul 08, 2010

really liked it
Read from January 13 to March 11, 2011

Oh, man.

This book felt like a marathon. Okay, it's a smart read, it's a dramatic book careering from one crisis to another. It doesn't spare its characters and there's a certain relentlessness to its pace. But, wow, was I ready for it to be over. I was ready for it to be over about 350 pages from the end, & the fact that Follett dragged me through to the last page with a minimum of skim-reading is testament to his power as a storyteller.

The prose is not marvellous (I'm intrigued that Follett is known as a thriller writer -- I can't picture it, & will have to try his thrillers), and the 'show, don't tell' rule is largely ignored. But it's a dense book full of *events* and the kind of satisfying story readers love to read. I can see why it came so highly recommended. You feel for the characters, pushing through the horrors of their lives -- some of them coming to revelations of their own personal horror stories, many of them realising the wastes they've made of their lives. And some of them, frankly, trading in all personality to become mere set pieces now & then, to serve the plot in long, drawn-out meanderings across moral and geographical landscapes that are only understood in hindsight. Fortunes rise and fall in exhausting unpredictability, death is sometimes quick & cruel and sometimes drawn-out & cruel. And life? Life is fickle. Life relies on the stamina of those living it -- and the speed of their response, and the intelligence of their coping. And what they make of themselves & the people around them. It's complicated & messy & bittersweet.

This marks the 3rd of the 'giant books' I've read in the last 12 months & frankly I need a break: smaller books with more rapid pay-off that don't test my endurance so much.

That said, PILLARS OF THE EARTH will be with me for a long time. Well played, Mr Follett! And thank-you.

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