Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett
Although Ken Follett was a successful author of thrillers for many years, Pillars of the Earth was his first work of straight historical fiction. His agent had discouraged him from writing a historical novel earlier, noting that historicals did not usually sell well. Pillars of the Earth sold more copies than any of Follett's previous books, several of which were bestsellers, and continues to sell well in paperback. Its success may be due at least partly to the experience he developed writing suspense: this long and sprawling novel, full of period detail, is also a page-turner written in a popular rather than a literary style.
Set in twelfth-century England, it begins with the theft of a pig which sends a family spiraling into ruin. The central character, a man of surprising kindness and optimism for the Middle Ages, has the luck and persistence to work his way out of disaster. He is a builder, and his story revolves around the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. It features conflict between church and state at a different social level than the oft-portrayed stuggles between kings and popes. 1989, 973 pages.
More info about Pillars of the Earth from Powell's Books
World Without End by Ken Follett Review
Other novels about cathedral-building:
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones, about the building of a cathedral in fourteenth century Spain. More info
The Heaven Tree by Edith Pargeter, about the building of a cathedral on the borderlands near Wales. More info
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