The Pillars of the Earth
I rarely if ever read 1000 page fiction novels, but several of my friends urged me last summer, “Luch, you’ve got to read Ken Follett’s ‘The Pillars of the Earth’. It ‘s about God and people and corruption and sex, and so much more in the 12th century. And since my son was going to be spending 4 months in England, I decided I must get to know more about old English culture, in this historically based novel.
I decided to take a shot and engrossed myself in Follett’s fast moving page turner. Over two months in the summer I enjoyed living in the 12th century with abbots, and poor people, corrupt and noble kings and queens, and experiencing the new age dawning in England’s 12th century. The story follows Prior Philip, a devout monk with a dream to build a great cathedral and his architect Tom along with the timeless struggle of good versus evil, ambition, lust and power.
Of particular interest to me is Ken Follett’s religious upbringing and why he wrote the book. Here’s introduction to his 1999 edition.
“Nothing happens the way you plan it.
A lot of people were surprised by The Pillars of the Earth, including me. I was known as a thriller writer. In the book business, when you have had a success, the smart thing to do is write the same sort of thing once a year for the rest of your life. Clowns should not try to play Hamlet; pop stars should not write symphonies. I should not have risked my reputation by writing something out of character and overambitious.
What’s more, I don’t believe in God. I’m not what you would call a spiritual person. According to my agent, my greatest problem as a writer is that I’m not a tortured soul. The last thing anyone would have expected from me was a story about building a church
So Pillars was an unlikely book for me to write – and I almost didn’t. I started it, then dropped it, and did not look at it again for ten years.
This is how it happened.
When I was a boy, all my family belonged to a Puritan religious group called the Plymouth Brethren. For us, a church was a bare room with rows of chairs around a central table. Paintings, statues and all forms of decoration were banned. The sect also discouraged members from visiting rival churches. So I grew up pretty much ignorant of Europe’s wealth of gorgeous church architecture.”
Having grown up in more of a ‘high church’ background, meaning church with cathedrals and liturgies, I found Follett’s description of his own upbringing fascinating since he came from the opposite side. His book really helped me to appreciate the passion and vision that very ordinary people had to construct something of significance that would outlast them.
The resurgence of interest in this book also comes with the recently released 8 part mini series also available on DVD. A TV/DVD series can never do justice to a book, but this one does not disappoint.
During this break between Christmas and the start of 2011, I am enjoying this dvd series.