Friday, February 5, 2010

Reading Log - December and January

I'm not a fast reader. When I take on a volume like The Pillars of the Earth (978 pages ), it takes me a long time (in this case a little over two months) to finish reading it. And since I'm rather linear-minded, I never read multiple books at one time. I read entirely through one book before I feel good about starting another. All that is to explain why there is only ONE book in this reading log, for December and January.

The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett

It was twelfth century England, an era known as “The Anarchy.” An ever-changing balance of power, between the Catholic Church and the Royalty, was the norm. Philip, who had been orphaned as a child, when his parents were slaughtered by an invading band of king’s men, had been rescued, along with his brother, by a priest and raised in the priory. It was only natural that he, too, would become a priest. His heart was good, and, as prior of Kingsbridge, his desire to make the priory and the village of Kingsbridge a stable, well-run, profitable community for God was a noble one.

Tom Builder and his family arrive at the priory during hard times. Tom, who is a skilled stonemason with a yearning to one day build a beautiful cathedral, is hired on to coordinate the rebuilding of the Kingsbridge church, after a terrible fire destroys the original one. Tom Builder, and his step-son, Jack, are instrumental in bringing to England Gothic architecture, after being inspired by the slim, soaring lines of cathedrals in France and Spain. In the author’s words, “. . . the building of the church would be the spine of the story and the focus for the lives of all the characters.” In this respect, this novel reminded me of The Spire, by William Golding, which I read back in my college years.

During the span of Philip’s life, civil wars, raids, spiritual edicts, personal love affairs, jurisdictional conflicts, ambition and political intrigue reign. In the end, Philip aligns himself with Thomas Becket, who had been made Lord Chancellor by King Henry II, and, following the assassination of Becket, leads a successful protest against the King, claiming for Becket both martyrdom and sainthood.

This book is lengthy. It uses historical fact as the backdrop, and winds a fictional story around it. I was totally spellbound by the story and found myself emotionally invested in the individual lives of the main characters. I am not a huge fan of history. I am not a fast reader. This book took me over two months to finish. Despite all of that, reading this book was well worth the time, and I may launch into World Without End, Follett’s sequel to Pillars of the Earth, in the near future.

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