The Pillars of the Earth : The Pillars of the Earth

  • by Ken Follett
  • Narrated by John Lee
  • Series: The Pillars of the Earth
  • 40 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known...of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect - a man divided in his soul...of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame...and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of 12th-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.


What the Critics Say

"Follett is a master." (The Washington Post)
"A historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and detail and memorable characterization." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good historical setting, but loose story.

I read this when it came out, because I was a graduate student of medieval history at the time, and now I've heard it on audiobook. Some aspects of the work are very impressive, others are rather simplistic pop fiction, but overall it's a rewarding book, and the performance is impressive, considering how long John Lee has to keep your attention with his reading.

The aspect of the book I loved most was the setting and the technical details. It recreates a medieval world, from the economy of the villages to the politics of the monastery, with intricate and impressive detail on the building of the cathedral and the changing architectural styles and challenges. That alone is worth the listen.

The story--as he himself has described it--is a series of melodramas over a couple of generations, some of which take the whole book to develop, some of which are settled as they go, much like a Victor Hugo novel, but without the great writing and complex insight. The tales themselves sound more like 20th century dramas than medieval lives. There are few of the moral dilemmas medieval literature dwells on, and you could just drop the same stories into modern England without much change beyond clothing and settings. Add a few cell phones and IPods, and you're good to go.

Overall, I recommend it. Four stars, because I can't give three and a half. The setting is worth the listen, and the melodramas are emotionally engaging even if not very medieval. It's long pop fiction with a more sophisticated setting. If you want a modern novel in a well-researched medieval setting, this is it. If you want historical fiction that recreates the emotional and intellectual psyche of the time, this is not it. Try Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" for that, I guess.
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- Joseph

Epic story to be read by all!

I downloaded this book based on a review by another person who said something about how they couldn't believe a book about a monk trying to build a cathedral could be so interesting. Well they were right!

I just skimmed over some of the reviews here after reading the book and I can't believe some of these people and I read the same book! I personally was never bored with any of the parts. Many times I sat in my car once I got to work, just to hear out the rest of the chapter. Ken Follet is a brilliant writer and really drew me into his characters. I even felt true hatred towards the villains - I would come in from my hour drive home work ranting to my husband how much I hated so and so.

Some reviews here talk about the book being vulgar, that is not true. There are some sexual encounters in this book (some the good kind and others terrible), but they add to the storyline. I personally felt it brought more realism to book, but did not feel like the author overdid the frequency of encounters like some other books do.

I'm traveling to England this month for the first time and thanks to this book I've altered my itinerary in order to visit some cathedrals. I want to marvel at the architecture and imagine the trials and tribulations the builders went through.

I love historical fiction and enjoyed how the author brought in real events (that I could look up) and gave the ordinary people of that time a voice. I could imagine how hard life really was for them and the life and death effects of the decisions and whims of the rulers. I have a better appreciation for their struggles.

The narrator did a fabulous job. Some narrators can ruin a book, but John Lee brought all those characters to life. Sometimes I'd forget it was the same man voicing every character.

I do wish the author had given his comments at the end of the book, not at the beginning. It gave away some of the plot.
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- Gina

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-25-2007
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio