Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Year That Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Postby Vanessa » Tue July 28th, 2009, 3:38 pm

I very much enjoyed it, Lady MacBeth - I didn't know it was being made into a TV series, though. Do you know when it's being shown?
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Lady Macbeth
Scribbler
Location: Deepest Darkest Lincolnshire

Postby Lady Macbeth » Tue July 28th, 2009, 4:21 pm

I'm really not sure but there is a website. :)



http://www.the-pillars-of-the-earth.tv/
User signature picture

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Year That Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Postby Vanessa » Tue July 28th, 2009, 4:35 pm

Thanks for that - I know of some other fans who will be interested.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Tue July 28th, 2009, 4:36 pm

Film opening synopsis:

On a bright, cloudless day, a lone ship in the English Channel mysteriously sinks - seemingly without cause. Amongst the ship’s lost souls is the future King of England and his young pregnant bride. The only survivor of this fiery catastrophe is the young French artist, Shareburg, who washes ashore more dead than alive, clutching in his fist the red ruby ring once worn by the drowned Prince.

What?!!!! In history the ship set out at night from Barfleur. Everyone had been drinking heavily before they embarked. King Henry had gone on ahead. The ship didn't clear the harbour but hit a known rock whilst navigating out. The lone survivor of this tragic event was actually a butcher as I recall and he certainly wasn't carrying a ring.

And then 'Ellen bares Shareburg a son' Yikes, you'd think they'd check the spelling. I don't dare read the rest!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Tue July 28th, 2009, 4:54 pm

Sounds like the film will make Pillars seem like an impeccably researched novel, by contrast. Film-makers who aim their work at a popular audience generally don't care much about keeping the history authentic. In regard to the novel, my impression was that Follett focused on researching the technology of cathedral-building and some of the other specifics of medieval life with considerable success, but did not steep himself in medieval culture, attitudes and belief-systems, so Pillars often seems "off" to me in terms of how the characters think and behave. Because of his background as a thriller-writer, his scenes are full of tension and plot-movement, which makes his novels exciting for people who are reading primarily for plot and story. A lot of people who don't normally read historical fiction find his novels exciting, and I do think they serve as a worthwhile introduction to the Middle Ages for people who might otherwise think of the Middle Ages in the context of boring history classes at school. While I do find the characters' lapses into modern attitudes annoying, I don't think the novels present the Middle Ages so unrealistically as to be seriously misleading, and I have to applaud any novel that gets people who aren't normally interested in history excited about it and interested in learning more.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings and over 650 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Tue July 28th, 2009, 5:10 pm

Margaret, you are always so balanced in your comments and reviews. I appreciate that. :)

"Margaret" wrote:
Because of his background as a thriller-writer, his scenes are full of tension and plot-movement, which makes his novels exciting for people who are reading primarily for plot and story.


I agree and I think this is why my mum really enjoyed the book, and my sister in law. My mum loves thrillers and she tends to read fast and for the adrenalin of the story without bothering too much about the history if it's historical, and holes in the plot if it isn't. I do think it's a pacy, punchy novel with that elusive page turning quality.

While I do find the characters' lapses into modern attitudes annoying, I don't think the novels present the Middle Ages so unrealistically as to be seriously misleading
,

Once I would have agreed with you, but I was struck on reading it a second time for a reading group (after a 15 year gap) how much was very unrealistic or skewed. I think that it does dovetail with how readers expect the Middle Ages to be, which is part of its popularity, and it has the technical details of building a cathedral which make it seem as if the reader is learning something good and solid while still being hugely entertained. Whingers like me are viewed as detail-nut party poopers who don't get out enough. . :rolleyes: :) My mum says so anyway!

and I have to applaud any novel that gets people who aren't normally interested in history excited about it and interested in learning more.


I agree with that, even if I look a little wry. :) ;)
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Wed July 29th, 2009, 4:34 am

I think that it does dovetail with how readers expect the Middle Ages to be, which is part of its popularity


This is where I'm tempted to agree - even though I don't quite - that a novel like Pillars could be pernicious. It does annoy me profoundly when people criticize novels that do present the Middle Ages (or any time period) in an authentic way, accusing them of being "inaccurate" or unbelievable because the novels, even though they are based on solid research, don't conform to what people think the time period was like. What's a poor historical novelist to do? But Hollywood is a far bigger culprit, I think, in promoting misconceptions than any novelist!
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings and over 650 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
Carine
Compulsive Reader
Currently reading: Jonkvrouw - Jean-Claude Van Ryckeghem
Interest in HF: I love history
Favorite HF book: Can't pin that down to only 1 :-)
Preferred HF: Medieval, Tudor and Ancient Egyptian
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Contact:

Postby Carine » Wed July 29th, 2009, 6:19 am

Lady Macbeth, I enjoyed reading this too and loved the next one World Without End. :)
I'm curious to see how they interpret it on tv !!
Last edited by Carine on Wed July 29th, 2009, 6:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
stu1883
Avid Reader
Location: I live in Bristol, England with my wife Nicki & our kittens Boomer & Magic
Contact:

Postby stu1883 » Wed July 29th, 2009, 9:22 am

I have to say that this was one of the books that got me interested in historical fiction as it made me interested in the genre and the period. I'd always enjoyed things about knights and stuff whn I was at school but drifted away from it when others didn't think it "cool".

Follett worked on this novel for ten years, researching all about cathedral construction and masons methods - in retrospect it isnt historically accurate in many ways but I do feel it has a quality that many other books seem to lack. It is enjoyable, it does read easily and will get peopleinterested in history because of its descriptive content.

I have read the second book as well, and enjoyed it. I think this is what makes historical fiction so enjoyable - the variety of styles and the accuracy of research. The TV series looks an exciting project......however I would still prefer to see EC version of the Marshals on the small screen!!!

User avatar
siouxzee
Scribbler
Contact:

Postby siouxzee » Sun August 16th, 2009, 8:17 pm

Everyone seems to love this book so much, I'm glad I'm not the only one that hated it! As you said, the characters were incredibly flat and the plot holes were distracting. I'm not usually squeamish about sex/violence/profanity but.... wow. it got pretty annoying after a while. and the rape scenes were so disturbing I had to skip through them (one after another after another after another).... :(
Anyway, glad I'm not alone!

"Misfit" wrote:Alrighty, I'll start this one off and let the debate begin :)

I know I'm in the minority of the rest of the reading public, but this is truly one of the worst books I have ever read. I came so close to throwing the book across the room on several occasions, and ended up skipping through many pages just to get to the final and not too surprising finish.

The characters were flat and lifeless and seemed to have been transplanted from the 20th century into medieval England. The book was rife with unnecessary profanity that in no way enhanced the storyline and obscene gratuitous sex (I mean how many times did William have to rape someone to prove that he was a really really bad guy?). I noticed that at least one other reviewer commented that this book was required reading in his child's school, which if you are a parent I would recommend you take a good look at this book and perhaps take issue with your school district. As an adult I was shocked at the language and violence in this book, and find it totally inappropriate for a child and/or young adult.

I also noticed comments about the historical accuracy and research that must have been involved in writing this book. If that is so, it must only be in regards to the building of the cathedral and the civil war between Stephen and Maud. As for the rest, I must disagree, I have read many well written and researched books of medieval times (thank you Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick for such awesome reads), and I was infuriated on numerous discrepancies in this book. Examples and anyone may correct me if I'm mistaken as I am not a history major:

  • Aliena is frequently described as having long, curling loose flowing hair. Women in those days wore their hair braided and covered, it being quite scandalous for any man other than her husband or lover to see it loose.
  • After the attack on the castle, and the imprisonment of their father Aliena and Richard are allowed to live alone in the castle with only the steward? I doubt that the king would punish the children so for the sins of their fathers, and most likely would have been made wards of the king until they reached their majority. This was most desirable as the king could then skim the proceeds off the estates and funnel them to the crown's use. Sometimes a king would give ward ship to another party as a reward for service, etc.
  • Young boys of the noble class were typically sent to another noble household to be raised and educated, first as squires and then trained in that household as a knight. What on earth was a teenaged Richard doing living at home?
  • Much was made of William's warhorse. These were formidable beasts that were not easily handled by strangers. Yet Aliena and Richard were able to not only saddle the warhorse, but to get right on and ride it? I don't think so.
  • The English nobility of that period were Norman French and did not speak the language of the peasant class. So how did Aliena manage to not only communicate with them, but could set up a successful business in that atmosphere?

I could go on with more examples if I had remembered to take notes, but there were many similar instances to this throughout the book. All I can say is that if you want to read a very well written and researched book on this period, please see Sharon Kay Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept and Time and Chance or Elizabeth Chadwick's A Place Beyond Courage. Rating: Wall Banger.


Return to “By Author's Last Name A-F”