'The Pillars of The Earth' is a rare classic; it is popular with the masses and it is appreciated by the critics.
A story that unfolds in twelfth century England. The theme of the thick book, as the name hints, is building of a cathedral. Ken Follett wrote this book out of a fascination for cathedrals, the people who built them, and the social fabric that somehow stretched itself to get a Cathedral built.
Who would want to build a Cathedral? A pope, or a monk, someone with a religious bent of mind, we suppose. But Pillars takes a completely different angle. A cathedral is a work of art and craft. So the basic impetus to create one has to come from an artist.
Tom Builder, a humble stonemason who once worked on a cathedral, got fascinated by the intricacies and complications of the process. He realized that the walls of a Cathedral had to be not just good, but perfect. This was because the Cathedral was for God, and also because the building was so big that the slightest lean in the walls, the merest variation from the absolutely correct level, could weaken the structure fatally. The combination of a hugely ambitious building with a merciless attention to the smallest detail opened Tom’s eyes to the wonder of his craft.
The Cathedral, however, did not get completed for lack of funds. But Tom Builder was so very attracted to the idea of building another Cathedral that he sacrificed security and left his town with family to look for another town where a Cathedral might be being made. And so began a ten year journey on foot, braving England’s cold winds, which led not to a Cathedral but to abject poverty and the death of his wife.
Ellen, Tom’s second wife, is almost a witch. She lives all alone in the wild, and she fears neither God nor man. Although she loves Tom, and understands his dreams, she cannot tag along, her spirit is too free to be tied down to the shackles of society. Jack, Ellen’s first child, however, is a survivor from age five. He burns down an existing church in the middle of the night so that Tom may get to build another. In the process of helping him, he also learns and inherits Tom’s dream to build a Cathedral.
What we did not like in the book:
The dark patches are sometimes too vulgar and crude. More importance has been given to the physical aspect of devotion: the structure of the cathedral, how it will arch higher and higher, and almost none to the spiritual aspect.
What we liked about the book:
The pillars that sustain this medieval timed book are the art force and the life force of the characters. Without using the word, artist, Ken Follet has created a true blue character in Tom. Even if he is a little stereotypical, he is totally believable.
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