Oprah's Book Club Selection
The “extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece” (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett’s already phenomenal career—and begins where its prequel, The Evening and the Morning, ended.
“Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner,” extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett’s unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.
The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known . . . of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect—a man divided in his soul . . . of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame . . . and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state and brother against brother.
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.
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About the Author
In 1989 The Pillars of the Earth was published, and has since become the author’s most successful novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
Its sequels, World Without End and A Column of Fire, proved equally popular, and the Kingsbridge series has sold 38 million copies worldwide.
Follett lives in Hertfordshire, England, with his wife Barbara. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren, and three Labradors.
Date of Birth:June 5, 1949
Place of Birth:Cardiff, Wales
Education:B.A. in Philosophy, University College, London, 1970
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "The Pillars of the Earth"
Copyright © 2007 Ken Follett.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
“Enormous and brilliant …a great epic tale…crammed with characters unbelievably alive across the great gulf of centuries…touches all human emotion—love and hate, loyalty and treachery, hope and despair. See for yourself. This is truly a novel to get lost in.”—Cosmopolitan
“Wonderful…will hold you, fascinate you, surround you.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“An extraordinary epic buttressed by suspense…a monumental masterpiece…A towering triumph from a major talent.”—Booklist
“A seesaw of tension….A novel that entertains, instructs, and satisfies on a grand scale” —Publishers Weekly
Reading Group Guide
1. 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? 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?
2. 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?
3. 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? 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?
4. Women were second-class citizens in medieval society and the church. Is this accurately reflected in The Pillars of the Earth? What attitudes to women are shown by Prior Philip and William Hamleigh? How do Agnes, Ellen and Aliena respond to society’s expectations?
5. 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? In the book, churches are usually viewed through the eyes of a builder. How does this affect your understanding of the architecture?
6. 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?