The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is a huge book, coming in at over 1000 pages in my paperback edition. I had been intimidated by this book for a fair few years (I’ve had it since 2018) and me and Kari decided that buddy reading this one was the way to go.
Well I am so glad that we did because wow I would not have finished this without Kari! Whilst I can see why others might find enjoyment in this book, it was very much not for me.
Don’t be mistaken before you start this book, it is about building a cathedral. The characters and any other plot/world event is just background to the main course of the book. It seems to be incredibly well researched, and I now know more about cathedral building in Western Europe in the 12th century than I ever thought I would (never complain about learning something new!). Whilst this is interesting, I hadn’t expected just how much depth Follett was going to go into. Not bad necessarily, just really unexpected.
There are also scenes of intense violence, both generic violence and against women specifically. I don’t use content warnings personally (although I always provide them) but me and Kari checked that each other were okay after a certain scene. Yeah. That bad. Additionally, the same as my thoughts on Fall of Giants, Follett does a bad job of writing women. He means well, but he doesn’t succeed in portraying these characters as realistic women.
The interweaving of historical events through this book was incredibly interesting, and I’m very curious what was altered for literatures sake and what is accurate to the time. I do think that this part of the book was done well but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to save the book with the rest of the issues.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 3, Atmosphere: 4, Writing: 2, Plot: 4, Intrigue: 4, Logic: 5, Enjoyment: 1, giving an average of 3.29 and a 2* rating.
Highlight here for content warnings: rape, sexual violence, sexual assault, murder, death of parent, animal death, bullying, misogyny, physical, domestic and emotional abuse, torture, adult/minor relationship, animal cruelty, body shaming, paedophilia, body horror, child abuse, suicidal thoughts, abandonment.
This book… Is one I’m glad is over. And it has definitely put me off from finishing the Centuries trilogy or anything else by Follett. He puts a lot of research and effort into his books, but I feel like they’re just not for me.