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The Pillars of the Earth

Cover of The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth Series, Book 1
#1 New York Times Bestseller
Oprah's Book Club Selection
If you liked the Century Trilogy, you'll love the "extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece" (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett's already phenomenal career.

"Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner," extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett's unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.

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 twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
#1 New York Times Bestseller
Oprah's Book Club Selection
If you liked the Century Trilogy, you'll love the "extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece" (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett's already phenomenal career.

"Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner," extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett's unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.

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 twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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  • From the book Chapter 1

    In a broad valley, at the foot of a sloping hillside, beside a clear bubbling stream, Tom was building a house.

    The walls were already three feet high and rising fast. The two masons Tom had engaged were working steadily in the sunshine, their trowels going scrape, slap and then tap, tap while their laborer sweated under the weight of the big stone blocks. Tom's son Alfred was mixing mortar, counting aloud as he scooped sand onto a board. There was also a carpenter, working at the bench beside Tom, carefully shaping a length of beech wood with an adz.

    Alfred was fourteen years old, and tall like Tom. Tom was a head higher than most men, and Alfred was only a couple of inches less, and still growing. They looked alike too: both had light-brown hair and greenish eyes with brown flecks. People said they were a handsome pair. The main difference between them was that Tom had a curly brown beard, whereas Alfred had only a fine blond fluff. The hair on Alfred's head had been that color once, Tom remembered fondly. Now that Alfred was becoming a man, Tom wished he would take a more intelligent interest in his work, for he had a lot to learn if he was to be a mason like his father; but so far Alfred remained bored and baffled by the principles of building.

    When the house was finished it would be the most luxurious home for miles around. The ground floor would be a spacious undercroft, for storage, with a curved vault for a ceiling, so that it would not catch fire. The hall, where people actually lived, would be above, reached by an outside staircase, its height making it hard to attack and easy to defend. Against the hall wall there would be a chimney, to take away the smoke of the fire. This was a radical innovation: Tom had only ever seen one house with a chimney, but it had struck him as such a good idea that he was determined to copy it. At one end of the house, over the hall, there would be a small bedroom, for that was what earls' daughters demanded nowadays—they were too fine to sleep in the hall with the men and the serving wenches and the hunting dogs. The kitchen would be a separate building, for every kitchen caught fire sooner or later, and there was nothing for it but to build them far away from everything else and put up with lukewarm food.

    Tom was making the doorway of the house. The doorposts would be rounded to look like columns—a touch of distinction for the noble newlyweds who were to live here. With his eye on the shaped wooden template he was using as a guide, Tom set his iron chisel obliquely against the stone and tapped it gently with the big wooden hammer. A small shower of fragments fell away from the surface, leaving the shape a little rounder. He did it again. Smooth enough for a cathedral.

    He had worked on a cathedral once—Exeter. At first he had treated it like any other job. He had been angry and resentful when the master builder had warned him that his work was not quite up to standard: he knew himself to be rather more careful than the average mason. But then he realized that the walls of a cathedral had to be not just good, but perfect. This was because the cathedral was for God, and also because the building was so big that the slightest lean in the walls, the merest variation from the absolutely true and level, could weaken the structure fatally. Tom's resentment turned to fascination. The combination of a hugely ambitious building with merciless attention to the smallest detail opened Tom's eyes to the wonder of his craft. He learned from the Exeter master about the importance of proportion, the symbolism of various numbers, and the almost magical formulas for working...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 25, 2008
    Tom Builder's dream is to build a cathedral, but in the meantime, he must scrounge about to find a lord that will hire him. His search pulls him and his family into the politics of 12th-century England, as different lords vie to gain control of the throne in the wake of the recently deceased king. Prior Phillip, a man raised in the monastery since childhood, also finds himself drafted into the brewing storm as he must protect the interests of a declining church. Richard E. Grant seduces readers early on with a soft and deliberate voice that is like a loud whisper. However, his full range quickly reveals itself as he delves into characters with animated voices that exert their true essence. Even throughout the narrative, Grant musters a lively voice that imbues energy into the story. The only shortcoming is that the abridgment of Follett's 1989 novel proves to be too choppy. Though the story appears complete, there still remain abrupt moments throughout the tale. Penguin Audio's unabridged version is read by John Lee and runs 41 hours.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 3, 2007
    Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. ``Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale,'' judged PW.

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The Pillars of the Earth
The Pillars of the Earth
The Pillars of the Earth Series, Book 1
Ken Follett
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