Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Trials of Kingsbridge

artwork from the 1999 edition of Pillars of The Earth, by Petra Rohr-Rouendaal
Years before I had the opportunity to read Pillars of the Earth, I had read one of Ken Follett's other novels. One of the spy ones. I wasn't very impressed, to be very honest and was therefore not very inclined to try any of his other, supposedly better ones. The 1000 paged Pillars were facing a grim life on my bookshelf because - let's face it - if a poor 300 paged book gave me such a snooze, what is bound to happen with this one? I turn into Sleeping Beauty?
Luckily a time came in my life when Middle Ages took center stage of interest and I decided to give this book a go. And boy was I surprised. 
It is my firm belief that Ken Follett has found his true calling in historical novels. Honestly. Because no matter how he weaved the other books, I am willing to bet m favorite pair of shoes that they can't hold a candle to these. Both Pillars of the Earth and World Without End (now bound into Pillars of the Earth "collection" which I rather call Kingsbridge collection) tell the trials and tribulations of the fictional English town called Kingsbridge. The books are not intertwined nor do you really need to read the first before you read the last and quite honestly, you don't actually need to read both of them. Just read one. I cannot exactly tell you which I'd pick if I had to choose but I liked them both very, very much.

"The duck swallows the worm,
the fox kills the duck,
the men shoot the fox,
and the devil hunts the men."
Pillars of the Earth talks about the time between 1123-1174 and revolves around the building of a cathedral. That was my favorite part. The carefully researched building of magnificent buildings that are no longer being built today when we have so many more means and machines to help us do so. It tells the story of many wonderful characters who try to survive poverty, invasion, wars, and burning at the stake. The characters face troubles that we now face every day, except that their surroundings are a bit different. They fall in love, they mourn their loved ones, they run from conflict or seek revenge. The poor remain poor, the rich fall, the mean kept avoiding their punishment and the destiny surprises everyone. I cannot even tell you one little instance from the book and avoid saying too much at the same time. I loved these characters so much, I carried the book everywhere with me a month after I had finished it.


"When you've lost everything,
you've got nothing to lose."
World Without End tells the tale of the same town, only 157 years later. It focuses on the hundred year war, on the grip of royals on the farmers and peasants, on the greed of both, on secrets that will be uncovered and on (again) a love story. In Pillars you have to love the main protagonists, here I had a difficulty liking the female protagonists because she seemed a bit ... well, too annoying and a bit inconsistent within what was presented (this might be a spoiler but I had trouble accepting she would ever truly believe the reasons she named for not marrying her sweetheart). Other than that the characters are consistent, including her and the story is full of little tidbits of their lives and how things were handled on a daily basis. It also covers the time of Black Death and shows the narrow-mindedness of the only true physicians. Yes, the clergy. (eyeroll)

"Proportion is the heart of beauty."

Why is it not necessary to read both the books? Because they have similarities, mainly in characters. A good brother, a bad brother, the meanest kid in town (making it big) that you hate but just won't die, a scheming mother, a greedy and evil man of god, a disaster or three, a fearless female, a clumsy boy, etc. But you learn a lot about the history and you gain amazing stories and wonderful language. And for the love of GOD, do not watch the tv series World Without End. While Pillars is still nicely done, Ken Follett instantly signed a deal for the same producers to make the second installment too. World Without End (tv series) is a disgrace to the book. It mainly just has the characters with the same names and a few similar things happening to them. I was enraged and disappointed. So save yourself the many hours of watching, spend them reading instead.

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