Historical Fiction Challenge – PILLARS OF THE EARTH

This is my 6th and final book for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. I had originally planned to read another book by Anne Easter Smith but I’m really Tudored out by now. I needed to get out that period of English history, and I’ve been hearing about The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett for a few months now (probably because his new book, World without End the sequel to Pillars came out about a year ago).
Pillars of the Earth takes place in 12th century England and revolves around the small hamlet of Kingsbridge. The new prior wants to build the best cathedral in England – to bring people back to his parish. As with all Follett books, there are layers; stories within stories. There’s a huge cast of characters with several key ones, including three master builders, a prior, a couple of bishops, and several strong females who refuse to comply with the standards of the time. There is also an earl who may be the scum of the earth. His actions are reprehensible – his idea of fun on a rainy day is to lock a cat in a room with several men and try to stone it to death. Pleasant, no? Some of his acts towards women and social inferiors are so disgusting, I almost put the book down, but I’m determined that he will get what’s coming to him. He’d better die a truly terrible death and slowly, to make up for everything he did.
When Follet centers on building the cathedral, he grabs my interest. You really get to know the builders and seeing how they made these gorgeous edifices without the benefit of modern technology is fascinating. I love churches, and reading about buttresses and clerestories gets me all breathless. I took an art history class while at Smith. Anyone who went there knows Art 100 – it’s a general overview of Art History from the beginning of time until the present – and vast doesn’t even begin to describe the amount of material it covers. However, one of the major components was churches and we had to memorize hundreds of them, and be able to identify one from the other by blueprints and pieces of architecture. (I did not do terribly well in this class – probably due to my habit of falling asleep the minute the lights dimmed. It started at 8 AM and I was in college!)
I am almost finished the book and I will finish it. However, I wasn’t kidding – I want William of Hamleigh to burn in the fiery pits of hell and maybe be drawn and quartered on his way there. I’m not a fan of capital punishment and I don’t think killing someone helps bring back the ones that they have harmed. But there are times when someone is pure evil and deserve to have all their sins revisited upon them.

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