World W ithout End

The Pillars of the Earth

by Ken Follett

Ann Ferber: I have just finished reading this monumental book and now I have to get back to real life. This book is a huge committment of time and energy, but the rewards are great. There is nothing like the ingenius ability to tell a story that depicts good against evil that covers almost an entire century (think: Les Miserables,or the Count of Monte Cristo) complete with unthinkable evil action and compelling plans of revenge and victory.

The plot and characters have already been described, but what hooked me the most was a recognition that these forces are still with us today, albeit in more subtle form. Here we are, nine centuries later, and greed, power corruption, ignorance and short-sightedness are still at work against cooperation, compassion and human rights. The story allows the reader to be a "fly on the wall" during the Middle Ages where the concepts of "rule of law", and "human rights" have not yet been created. In those days, for no offenses, people lost their heads and limbs, today we just lose our life savings and pensions.

The author has a magnificent ability to demonstrate narrative tension: just when it appears that all is lost, something happens, or someone gets an idea, and the day is saved. Of course, good triumphs over evil, evildoers get their just rewards and the satisfaction is sublime.
Rating: *****

Barb Crout: I did not realize I was a history buff until I read this book. I was fascinated by the stone carving and building of the cathedral...can you imagine this kind of project using 12th century tools? The characters were hard for me to keep straight but finally, by the end, everyone found their place in my mind. It was work to finish such a long book, but was worth the effort, especially if you read the next book, "World Without End," which continues with descendants of the families into the 13th century. The research that Mr. Follett put into these books is mind-boggling.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss: This is a hard book to sum up in just a few words because it is 973 pages long. I was anxious to read this book because I had only heard glowing reviews. I must preface my review by saying that I normally do not enjoy historical fiction.

This is a story that takes place in 12th century England and it centers around the building of a cathedral in the town of Kingsbridge. The central characters are Tom the master builder, Philip the prior of Kingsbridge, Ellen the woman of the forest who falls in love with Tom, Jack the artist in stone, and Aliena the noble woman who falls in love with Jack. Years pass by, wars are fought, fires destroy homes and churches, and famine causes hunger and pain.

Social and political upheavals take place and men vie for favor with the current king. Soldiers are killed, clergymen are corrupt and life always seems to be a struggle. I liked the characters created by the author, but I never really got hooked into the story. I was determined to finish the book in its entirety, but often I just felt as though the story would never end. This is definitely a well-written book, but only one I would recommend to readers who enjoy long, slow-moving sagas.
Rating: ***

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