Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: The Pillars of the Earth (audiobook)

Title: The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
Narrator: John Lee
Publisher: Penguin Audio, 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction/ 40 Hrs 54 mins
Source: Audible purchase
My rating: 5/5

I read The Pillars of the Earth in 1989 when it was originally published and loved it. I received the sequel World Without End for Christmas 2007 and have yet to read it because I needed to reacquaint myself with the first book in the series, which I have finally done now. I am so happy I decided to go with the audio version, because I loved John Lee as the narrator. I will definitely look for other narrations by him.

Tom Builder, a master builder and stone mason, has a burning desire to build a cathedral. In the early 12th Century England, after the death of King Henry I, civil war breaks out between Henry's daughter, Matilda (Maud), and her cousin Stephen who succeeds Henry to become the new King of England. Henry's only son, William, had drowned after his ship sunk crossing the English Channel, and Henry insisted his daughter Matilda should be his heir to the throne. But the Barons did not agree to this and put his nephew Stephen on the throne instead. This story takes place during this time in history and incorporates the drowning of William and the political intrigue which determines who has power and control over the earldoms and control in the church.

Tom Builder and his family struggle to survive starvation and lack of employment and the lodgings which would go with it. Through a fascinating set of circumstances, Tom becomes the master builder of Kingsbridge Cathedral. Prior Philip is the monk in charge who has a burning desire to also build a glorious cathedral for the glory of God and through all the obstacles he creatively works to build his community of monks and the town of Kingsbridge.

I found myself immersed completely in the story with a strong attachment to the characters. I admired Prior Phillip's ingenuity and faith in God to help him achieve his goals. Tom Builder's physical and mental strength to lead his family and take care of them was exceptional. Earl William's cruelty was relentless. Aliena's work ethic and stamina in overcoming many atrocities was inspiring. Jack and his mother Ellen were very interesting characters too.

I also found the detailed descriptions of cathedral architecture and the various methods used to build a cathedral with the materials needed such as stone, timber, and glass, and the labor and time needed to complete the different parts of a cathedral, to be extremely engaging. Although, even if this may sound boring to you, the author inserts these tidbits on masonry and cathedrals throughout this engrossing story that I do not think it would take away from anyone's pleasure.

I will soon embark on the next book World Without End, and I am sure I will hear the wonderful narrator John Lee in my head as I read it.