Lucy's Reviews > The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
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's review
Nov 10, 2008

did not like it

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 cover story. But Follett's cathedral in Pillars of the Earth serves as much purpose as the hospital in the soap opera General Hospital. He focused much more on the personal drama, romance, and rivalry of his weak characters. This was historical fiction a la Daytime television.

The story didn't even feel historical. Follett tried. He mentioned eating with a knife almost as frequently as the tunics his characters wore (Setting it apart from modern day. We no longer wear tunics, you know). But everything felt too modern - their speech, their attitudes, even their relationships. I read the mammoth 1,000 page story quickly but I can just as easily get sucked into Guiding Light. The plots are interesting enough...just mind-numbing and unlikely. For example, the Alfred-Aliena-Jack love triangle had my interest but then the high drama of Aliena's secret pregnancy followed by her truly unbelievable delivery (during the same time the ceiling of the cathedral fell....underneath the stone rubble....really?) along side Jack's odyssey was just too much. And could someone please just get kill William Hamleigh before he rapes someone else? (They don't. The reader is required to experience one too many grotesque acts by an inhumane man who supposedly fears hell. Once was MORE than enough, Ken. We get it. He's baaaaaad).

Even if there is some historical truth to the background story - the difficulty in building a cathedral (oh yeah..remember that?), it is overshadowed by all the non-historical melodrama. I don't think Follett did that period of history any favors by making it all seem so salacious.

Here Be Dragons does a much better job of storytelling the tumultuous middle ages. Read it if you want to experience the pettiness of power. I'd even recommend Philippa Gregory's novels over this. It was about 900 pages too long.
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Reading Progress

November 10, 2008 – Shelved
November 14, 2008 –
page 110
Started Reading
November 15, 2008 –
page 420
November 15, 2008 – Finished Reading
November 18, 2008 –
page 976
100% "Blah! Did not like this."

Comments (showing 1-26)

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Annalisa Well that's just as good a review as any. And it's short and concise.

message 25: by Lucy (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy Oh...but I need to explain and expound on just how much I didn't like it;) Did you really think I could be so non-wordy????

Annalisa No of course not :). I just had to laugh at that review.

Alisa I am beaming from ear to ear. I love how you give voice to what I WISH I could formulate.

Brenda Oh, please! So it's a little day-time drama-y. That's the major reason it's a best-seller. You had to have known what to expect when the author is Ken Follett. The reasons you hated it seems to be because of pre-conceived notions about it's historical value. Really, it's just a fun book with a little too much sex in it for good taste.

message 21: by Lucy (last edited Dec 05, 2008 10:38AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy On the contrary, Brenda. I actually had no pre-conceived notions about this book...only that it was hugely popular. I have never read anything by Ken Follett and didn't know he wrote thrillers until picking up this book and reading the introduction. It was the introduction written by Follett himself, describing his 15 years of research and toil and subsequent PRIDE about how thorough and historical his labor of love was that raised my expectations. And I don't think people are claiming to love this book because of its steamy nature and low-brow drama. The overwhelming acclaim for this book seems to be directed at Follet's expose about the corruption within the Catholic church.

I think there were two sex scenes written that weren't accompanied with violence, aggression, humiliation and abuse. I'd take a Harlequin sex scene over these any day. The purpose of the many rape scenes were never justified. Aliena's....maybe, as her revenge, recovery, development stemmed from William Hamleigh's vicious act.

Sorry. I just really didn't like this book. If I were indifferent...I'd simply say, "Meh. It's not very good." But I disliked it more than enough to defend my reasons for feeling that way.

Brenda OK, OK, I get it. You really didn't like it. I haven't recommended it to anyone, either, but I do not agree that the reason it is so popular is because it denounces the Catholic church's not-so-pristine past. It is steamy, violent, and thrilling and that's the reason people read it, even if they defend their choice as "educational" or "historical". Really, more men have recommended it to me than women, so maybe it's a romance novel aimed at men. Lots of violence, lots of sex, lots of corruption. Hmmm....maybe I'll give it to my husband. Sounds just like his favorite kind of movie. Do you think Clint Eastwood would play a good Tom Builder?

Mr. Wreeds E. Books Wow what a sucky review of a fun well written book. Of course is not a history lesson but he was writing a "drama" about life in a pre-renaissance era town and I felt he captured the essance of the struggles of life that we are fortunate to never face and at the same time made it an exciting adventure. And to top it all off I am Catholic and was not the slightest bit offended. :) Great book. Im off to World Without End

Franky About 300 pages in, and your review sounds pretty accurate to me. I had to laugh about the Guiding Light and General Hospital. Wish me luck.

message 17: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex I have never rated a book as a "1 star" (with the exception of the Dark Tower books by Stephen King which I plodded through the first one because King had never failed me before). No it's not because I am just brilliant at picking only books I'll love, it's simply because I won't read a book that I despise from the very opening pages--as so many of the "1 star" ers on here seem to want to tell us ad nausem. Don't like it? Not entertaining to you? Then why in the hell would you continue reading it. Personally I thought the book was excellent--though I do agree with the critics who lament the one-dimensional aspects of the characters.

message 16: by Lucy (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy Why read it? Because I enjoy reading. Why review it? Because I like writing and thinking. Why respond to your comment? Because I think it’s incredibly dull of you to condemn a reviewer for simply having a different opinion and motivation to read than you. Don’t like my review? Then, as you so eloquently put things, why in the hell would you continue reading it?

It appears, Alex, that we both have our flaws.

Misfit Alex seems to be leaving comments all over the one star reviews for this book. Good point though, if he doesn't like our opinions, why the hell does he keep reading them.

message 14: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Lucy...Don't pee on yourself and complain that you're wet. Similiarly don't "plod through 900+" pages and then foment about how disdainly you hated it

message 13: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex I left 3 comments on the 1 stars misfit...since u seem to be counting

message 12: by Pipehashmate (new)

Pipehashmate Your comment made me want to read the book. Sometimes the words that you read say more about the reader than the book itself.

message 11: by Unnichan (new) - added it

Unnichan Exactly Pipehashmate!

message 10: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Misfit wrote: "...if he doesn't like our opinions, why the hell does he keep reading them..."

I never said I didn't like your opinions. I said I thought it was silly to plod through 900 pages and insist that you hated it from the beginning. And, I still think it's silly.

Also, comparing my reading your comments as being equivalent to you reading through 900 pages is also, well..silly. It takes 20 seconds to read your inane comment about how you "just had to plod through all 900 pain-stakingly brutal pages". But it takes many many hours to read 900 pages. 20 seconds versus many hours...hmmm..nope no comparison.

message 9: by Lucy (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy A year later? You're making a followup comment about time well spent a year later? Seriously? Have you no other Ken Follet masterpieces to keep you busy, Alex? You made your comment. I disagreed. I think we're done.

Alex Lol was going through old e-mails and saw the last e-mail I got telling me someone responded. I can now look back and say "..meh, you want to complain in a 19 paragraph, 800 word essay on how much you hated that book from the moment you read the first paragraph until the very end after reading until your eyes bled"...well then knock yourself out. I just don't have have the time for that nonsense.

And...If you really felt that "we're done" you wouldn't have responded. But, in typical fashion, you have to have the last word. Personally? I think you just like the attention.

message 7: by Lucy (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy Yes. I love the attention. That is it. Thank you for helping out with that. I'm blushing that you took the time to do a word and paragraph count of my review. Wow. And your comments are just too special to ignore. But, thanks for the instructions in how to get you to go away.

Alex actually I didn't count I just guessed at the number of paragraphs (page numbers, whatever) and threw out a number. I guess 19 paragraphs/800 words was close eh? LOL..

Alex Eh I was waaaay off..only 5 paragraphs and 382 words. I think you're slacking off a bit on your lengthy diatribes. One could only hope anyway.

message 4: by Lucy (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy "Lengthy diatribes?" "typical fashion" Do you know me? Are you a crazy stalker a la John Hinckley Jr? I have no idea why you think you have me all figured out or why you care what I think at all.

Nate As far as Penman goes, a better work to read than Here Be Dragons if you're interested in this period is When Christ and His Saints Slept. It deals directly with this period, whereas the Welsh stuff is like two hundred years later IIRC.

Scott I detest people that write poor reviews of great books to try and convince people that they are smarter than they really are. This was a great book, enough said.

Susan Shipman I'm with Scott. These 1 star reviews remind me of wanna-be writers who know oh-so-much-more-than-we-peons. They could fit right into the novel itself.

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