09 August 2011

Pillars of the Earth

by Ken Follett

Pan Macmillan. Adult Historical Fiction. Paperback RRP $24.95

This is a work of enormous scope. Set in medieval 12th century England, it revolves around the fictional Knightsbridge Cathedral. Even more than the absorbing details of cathedral building history, are the lives of the people who live, work and wield power there.

Three strong story threads build not only the cathedral of stone and coloured light but also a vivid and intimate tale that stretches across lives in different social strata. This is a time where great privilege and power is in the hands of a few, the kingship is in constant turmoil and the villages suffer through it all.

The Master Builder Tom and his blended family offer an insight not only into village family life but also an exploration of a man confronted with a difficult decision. He loves his family but there are times when it seems he loves the cathedral even more.

Prior Philip is a good man who is sometimes blinded by the laws and rites of the Church. He is an excellent organiser and planner and his work often brings him into conflict with the ambitious elements of the Church. The building of the Cathedral, the successes and failures, map his own progress against a backdrop of the historical power struggle between State and Church.

Lady Aliena’s life of luxury is brutally overturned by the political climate. Her struggle to re-establish a place in society and restore her brother to his inheritance is constantly thwarted by William Hamleigh. William’s violent cruelty is protected by his position as the son of an earl, his usefulness to the scheming Bishop Waleran and his service to the king.

It’s a complex story. A medieval tapestry weave. A must read.


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