Friday, July 23, 2010

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

In 1989 I bought this book because I had read other Follett books and loved them so was excited by a new one. It turned out to be a radical departure from any of his previous books but, oh, what wonderful one. I read the book, all 1,000 pages of it, in a matter of days and was utterly mesmerized by every page. I passed the book on to my Dad who read it in less time than I did and he passed it on to my brother Jack who could not put it down. For a long time after we had all finished it we talked about it. What must it have been like to have lived in those terrible, wonderful times? What must it have been like to build a cathedral?

Some years later when the audio book became available I borrowed it from the library and listened to it again. It was read by one of my favorite actors, Richard E. Grant, who did and amazing job and, as I sat knitting and listening to the story, I lived the whole thing again. It amazes me that even now, 2 decades beyond the time I read it and at least one since I listened to it, I can still remember sections of it with perfect clarity. I can't imagine what could make any writer happier than knowing his story is remembered in such brilliant detail!

Of course to me the story was all about Tom Builder, the carpenter whose dream was to build a cathedral. I was completely in love with Tom and I still recall how bad I felt for him when his wife died --- and how furious I was with him when he boinked the first available woman! But he was a man of consuming passions and I guess they are like that.

Of course there are other memorable characters like the Lady Aliena who starts a business buying and selling wool (I dreamed of living then and doing that) and Tom's amazing step-son Jack who loves her.

Tonight, 21 years after the book was published, The Pillars of the Earth is making its debut as a TV mini-series. I may have to subscribe to Starz just to get to watch it. Rufus Sewell, who made me fall in love with him in the BBC's Cold Comfort Farm, plays Tom Builder and one of my favorite actors, Donald Sutherland is also in the cast though I don't know which part he plays.

The greatest character in the story is, of course, the Cathedral. In writing the book Follett did endless research on cathedral building and it comes alive so fully it is like a living entity. I see that the web site has some trailers and teasers online. I'm going to watch them now and then either plan to watch the series or maybe go get my book. I know exactly where it is.

Thanks for reading.

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