We have all heard the phrase “Third times a charm” and that’s how I felt after I finally finished Ken Follett’s first book of his Kingsbridge series, “The Pillars of the Earth. “ I had begun this book many years ago and it’s hardback version and struggled with it. This is unusual for me because I really enjoy Follett’s books, but for some reason I just could not get into this book. So I put it aside for at least 10 years. in that intervening time they came out with a 25th anniversary copy of the book and I purchased it on my Kindle. I began reading it back in November of 2020, and once again the same thing happened. I just could not get into this book. However, I was bound and determined that I was going to finish the book this time.
Luckily for me the third time proved to be a charm, and once I began reading I was able to finish this first book in a week’s time. The story is set between the years 1125 and 1172. It’s a different time than for most of his books which are set in the 20th century, and many of which deal with World War Two. This book is all about the building of a cathedral in the small town of Kingsbridge. It’s not even a town, it’s a village, but there is a very ambitious monk who is the head of the local Priory, and when the old cathedral burned down he was able to utilize the services of Tom Builder. This book is the story of the building of the cathedral, as well as the story of Tom’s Family and the church. It is a book that is filled with heroes and villains, and not just villains these are evil people who are against Kingsbridge, against the monk, against the cathedral, against Tom’s family and this continues for well over 40 years.
It is also the story of a deposed Princess who will struggles to make ends meet after her downfall, as well as trying to fulfill a vow she made to her dying father, a vow in which she agreed to support her brother in his attempt to regain the Earldom that was lost to the Hamleigh family. The book is filled with many enjoyable characters and stories over this 40 year. But in the end it’s also filled with so much evil that it actually overwhelms the good that is being done. By that I mean we can forget the building of the cathedral because everything that is done by Bishop Waleran Bigod, and William Hamleigh are actually the motivating and driving forces behind much of the action that takes place. The Bishop and the Earl will do something, and then the Prior, Phillip, must counteract that. By the end, however, as with most all of Follett’s books, good will triumph over evil. Although I was wishing for more dramatic revenge!!!
This is a very good book, not one of his best in my opinion, and much of that has to deal with the very last 70 pages of the book in which I think Follett has placed characters in some unrealistic positions and we are no longer involved with the Cathedral but rather with the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket. I just think that this was a weak ending for a book which was all about the building of the cathedral and everything that happened within this Earldom. Coming in at a little under 1100 pages, this book was an effort for me to read, his next two books in this series are also in the 1000 page range and while I do want to read these, I think that I’m going to put those on the shelf for a while. That will be easy to do because each of these next two books are set 200 years apart with much differing storylines than the building of this amazing Cathedral in the little village of Kingsbridge.