26 reviews

Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett

Published: 2007-11-14
Paperback : 973 pages
79 members reading this now
112 clubs reading this now
88 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 23 of 26 members
A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.

Abridged edition read by John ...

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A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett's historical masterpiece.

Abridged edition read by John Lee

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

Ken Follett has said: “When I started to look at cathedrals, I wondered: Who built them, and why?
The book is my answer to that question.” Why do you think the great medieval cathedrals were built?

Some things to think about:
How does the building of the cathedral satisfy the ambitions of the main characters – Tom Builder, Prior Philip, Aliena and Jack? How does it affect the lives of other important characters in the story?

Read the first scene in Chapter 10 and think about the prose style. Why do you think the author writes this way? Compare the last scene of the same chapter.

Some things to think about:
The number of words of one syllable; the length of sentences; the length of paragraphs; the adjectives used. What is different about the author’s purpose in these two scenes?

Although “The Pillars of the Earth” is fiction, it includes some real-life characters and incidents from history, such as King Stephen at the battle of Lincoln, and the murder of Thomas Becket. Why does the author mix fact and fiction like this?

Some things to think about:
Are the factual scenes told from the point of view of the real-life characters, or the fictional ones? Are the fictional characters major or minor players in the big historical events of the time?

Women were second-class citizens in medieval society and the church. Is this accurately reflected in “The Pillars of the Earth”?

Some things to think about:
What attitudes to women are shown by Prior Philip and William Hamleigh? How do Agnes, Ellen and Aliena respond to society’s expectations?

Some readers have said that they look at medieval churches with new eyes after reading “The Pillars of the Earth”. Do you think you will do the same?
Some things to think about:

In the book, churches are usually viewed through the eyes of a builder. How does this affect your understanding of the architecture?

Ken Follett has said: “I’m not a very spiritual person. I’m more interested in the material problems of building a cathedral.” Is “The Pillars of the Earth” a spiritual book?

Some things to think about:
What motivates Prior Philip? What does Tom say at the beginning of Chapter 5, when Philip asks him why he wants to be master builder? In Chapter 16, why does Philip ask Remigius to come back to the priory?

Suggested by Members

What disease state caused Reagan Hamleigh's disfigurement? Did it enhance the character's identity? Why was she such a bitter woman?
Did Alfred and Martha ever sense that Jonathan was their little brother? Should Tom the Builder have tried to claim parental rights of this child?
Did the author dismiss the emotional aftermath of Aliena's rape?
by ValerieW (see profile) 02/10/17

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Love Pillars of the Earth but stay away from Follett's part 2 " World With out end"
by lizblair (see profile) 09/03/11
As much as I loved Pillars of the Earth World without end was "the book with out end." (BORING)

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "A Must Finish"by Valerie W. (see profile) 02/10/17

Don't let the size of this book intimidate you. It paints a picture of Medieval life with brushes of beauty and barbaric behavior. You can't stop thinking about the characters as you wait for the next... (read more)

  "Best book I've ever read!"by liz c. (see profile) 02/13/14

I first read this when I was in my early twenties and nearly 15 years later, I've re read it about 5 times. Brilliant, epic, beautiful and all encompassing.

  "Pillars of the earth"by Jennifer W. (see profile) 07/28/13

Very well written, great character development, very graphic and a very interesting story.

  "The pillars of the earth"by Jen R. (see profile) 07/26/12

  "In my top 5 faves...but"by Elizabeth C. (see profile) 04/19/12

Recommend for committed clubs as it is a long book that should be discussed progressively.

  "Excellent read."by Deidre G. (see profile) 01/04/12

I enjoyed Ken Follett's telling of this story and it's sequel a great deal. The characters were interesting and well-developed. There was detailed information about medieval life, cathedral architecture... (read more)

  "Pillars of the Earth Hold strong"by Liz B. (see profile) 09/03/11

Loved everything about this book, story, characters, history, writing....

  "Medieval Society"by Paula K. (see profile) 07/22/11

A story that will make you think about the builders of great medieval cathedrals. Very interesting view of life during those times.

  "Pillars of the Eart"by Debbie D. (see profile) 03/08/11

Put off reading this book due the size, it was very intimidating. I ready it because someone in my book club chose it and once I started it I found myself stealing every moment I could to read it...real... (read more)

  "The Pillers of the Earth"by Jan T. (see profile) 03/05/11

Sweeping story that opens our eyes to the soaring beauty of cathedrals and those that built them many years past.

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