Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Pillars of the Earth

Posted by nliakos on August 24, 2008

by Ken Follett (abridged).  Penguin Audio 1989; read by Richard E. Grant

As a huge fan of the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, I really enjoyed this historical novel, set in England during the period in the 12th century when King Stephen and the Empress Maud both claimed the throne of England and everyone else’s fortunes rose and fell depending on which of them had seized power.  (Brother Cadfael’s chronicles took place during the same period and also in a religious setting.)  Pillars has a host of interesting characters: Philip of Gwyneth, whose integrity and devotion to God run through the novel; the witch Ellen and her gifted son Jack; master builder Tom; Lady Aliena, a “modern” woman who overcomes numerous setbacks to achieve her goals; the despicable Bishop of Kingsbridge, Allerin Bygod (N.B. I have only listened to the book, so the spelling could be wrong) and the evil William Hammley.  Yes, the characters do tend to be a bit one-sided, but the story moves along nicely (unfortunately, this audio version is abridged) and along the way the reader gets quite caught up in the events of the time and also in the art of cathedral-building.  The book made me regret never having visited the Cathedral of St. Denis when I lived in Paris.  Richard Grant’s reading is excellent; I wonder if he also narrated the lovely story, “Brother Heinrich’s Christmas,” as it sounds like the same voice!

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