Monday, March 19, 2018

The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett

This is an epic tale of life in the Middle Ages in southern England. (Or if you can credit the non sequitur of our book cover "A timeless story of passion and idealism set in the midst of the Middle Ages"!)

Set around the priory of Kingsbridge, the monks rule the town and the prior Philip longs to build a cathedral. The local earl of Shiring is against the plan, wanting the money from such a project to go to his own pockets.

The story spans some 30 years from 1135 and covers the building of the church with all the challenges of architecture encountered by senior builder Tom. At the same time, there is the tale of Aliena, the previous earl's daughter as she struggles to survive and return her family to their previous state, and her spurned fiancé William, a spiteful cruel man who long bears a grudge.

The interwoven lives of all means Archer has write a captivating story of the Middle Ages and the lives of nobility, the peasants and the various levels of clergy. At the same time the real events of history are played out with various Kings seizing the throne and their rulings affecting the lives of those at Kingsbridge.

As our children get older I am reading adult fiction with an eye to whether I would recommend it to them also. I would hesitate letting younger teens read this one because of the sexual violence. There's a fair amount of rape and most of the sex scenes described or alluded to are non-consensual, with some distasteful characters persisting in such behaviour. While it is probably accurate for the times and displays the power that men and nobles had, my young teens don't need to be reading about it yet.

It's the first book in a trilogy by Archer. This one was published in 1989 and the final one was just released in 2017. Reviews of the other two still to come. Great epic reads, all of them.

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