Thursday, March 31, 2016

THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH


Although this TV Mini-Serie was released in 2010, I recently watched on television The Pillars of the Earth. It consists of nine episodes and has been produced by Ridley Scott. Some of the actors involved are well-known as Eddie Redmayne (as Stephen Hawking in Theory of Everything), Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games), Donald Sutherland or Hayley Atwell (Vengers Age of Ultron, The Captain America or Ant-Man).

The nine episodes are:

  1. Anarchy
  2. Master Builder
  3. Redemption
  4. Battlefield
  5. Legacy
  6. Witchcraft
  7. New Beginnings
  8. The Work of Angels
  9. Illumination 

This is the review of The Pillars of the Earth I wrote in april 2013 after having read this book:


Review of The Pillars of the Earth


The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by Ken Follett published in 1989 about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the reign of King Stephen and the Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The book traces the development of Gothic architecture out of the preceding Romanesque architecture, and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory and village against the backdrop of historical events of the time.

Besides the novel explores themes of intrigue and conspiracy against historical events. It explores the development of medieval architecture, the civil war, secular/religious conflicts, shifting political loyalties and how ambitious nobles and churchmen take sides in the civil war hoping to gain advantages.



Pillars of the Earth
The Pillars of the Earth, written by Ken Follet


In this period, Tom Builder and his family roam southern England, seeking work. In midwinter, his starving wife, Agnes, dies in childbirth. He encounters a woman Ellen, who lives in a forest cave with her son, Jack (Jack's father was a French jongleur who was executed after washing ashore and meeting Ellen.) Tom settles in Kingsbridge with Ellen and Jack, and his own two children. He works for Prior Philip, who wants to expand his priory by rebuilding a cathedral.

Accused of treason, the Earl Bartholomew is stripped by King Stephen of his county, Shiring, which is granted to Percy Hamleigh. Hamleigh wants to topple the earl Bartholomew because Bartholomew's daughter, Aliena, had rejected Hamleigh’s son William. Thus William attacks Aliena and her brother Richard at the castle. 

Homeless and destitute, Aliena and Richard go to petition the king for aid at the court, where they find their dying father Bartholomew in prison, who demands they swear an oath to work for Richard to regain the earldom. Aliena supports Richard financially by becoming a wool merchant, with Phillip's help, in Kingsbridge. There Jack meets Aliena and falls in love with her at first sight and, slowly, he will get that she falls in love with him too. Richard becomes a knight for King Stephen, fighting in the civil war against Maud.

William and Richard compete for the earldom, but it has been bankrupted by the prosperity of Kingsbridge at Shiring's expense. Attempting to restore his fortunes, William burns down Kingsbridge and kills many people, including Tom Builder. After losing her fortune again, Aliena agrees to marry Alfred though she loves Jack and hates him, as Alfred promised to support Richard in exchange. Jack and Aliena make love on the morning of her wedding. When she marries Alfred anyway, Ellen curses the wedding and renders him impotent and Jack, furious, goes to France.



Gothic cathedral of Kingsbridge
Pillars of the Earth explains the construction of the Gothic cathedral of Kingsbridge


In France, Jack hones his skills as a sculptor and mason. Having learned his father's identity, he meets his family in Cherbourg. He did not know that Aliena was pregnant.

In Kingsbridge, Aliena gives birth to a red-headed son, and Alfred abandons her, as he has been impotent: the baby can't be his. Aliena, following the advice of Ellen, follows evidence of Jacks's sculpture through France and Spain (Santiago de Compostela and Toledo) finding him eventually in Paris.

Jack and Aliena return to England with their baby and they seek permission to marry. Philip forbids the union until her marriage to Alfred is annulled. This requires Waleran Bigod’s recommendation to the archibishop, but Bigod and the Hamleighs are allies, and they intend to ruin Philip and Aliena several times. Fortunately, justice will be done: William Hamleigh and Waleran Bidod will be punished, Philip and Jack will get their dreams and Aliena fulfill his oath.


Major characters

Jack Jackson: son of Jack Shareburg (Jacques Cherbourg) and Ellen; he becomes an architect and skilled stonemason.


Aliena: daughter to the Earl of Shiring, and the intended bride of William Hamleigh.

Tom Builder: A builder whose lifelong dream is to build a cathedral.

Ellen: daughter of a knight. She was unusual in knowing English, French and Latin, and in being literate. The lover of Jack Shareburg and the mother of Jack Jackson, she is discovered by Tom Builder while living in the woods.

Prior Philip: A monk who dreams of Kingsbridge rising to greatness with a cathedral.

William Hamleigh: The son of a minor lord, he temporarily gains the earldom of Shiring but eventually loses it to Richard, the son of the former earl, Bartholomew.


Richard (Richard of Kingsbridge): Aliena's younger brother, a knight who becomes a skilled soldier and leader, depending on Aliena for revenues from her wool business.

Alfred Builder: Tom's son, a mason who later marries Aliena.

Bishop Waleran Bigod: an ambitious and corrupt cleric constantly scheming his way to more power.


Minor characters

Jonathan: Son of Tom and Agnes Builder, he was raised from infancy by Prior Philip.

Jack Shareburg (Jacques Cherbourg): a jongleur who survives the wreck of the White Ship to become the lover of Ellen and father of Jack Jackson; executed. This execution is the beginning of history



Personal Opinion


Below you have what I liked the most about this novel:


  • It is one of the most beautiful love stories I've read.
  • At the end of the book justice is done, which leaves me a pleasant feeling.
  • The pursuit of dreams. During the book three stories come together around the dream of building a cathedral: Tom and his family, Prior Philip  and his monastery and Aliena and Richard in their struggle to regain his father's County. The struggle for this dream joins Tom (and then Jack) with Philip. Aliena fight for the oath that makes her father and then to find Jack
  • The message transmitted by the Book: Always follow what your heart tells you. Fight for what you love to do, for whom you love and do not settle for an easy life if you do not like it or this life do not fill you.
  • It explains the everyday aspects of life in the Middle Ages and the social organization of this period, like:

    • Everyday aspects of life in the Middle Ages: hunger, food (beer, brown bread, wine, clothing (coat, tunic, clogs, boots, leather boats, silk and linen), customs, hard life, church influence, territorial or  organization (earldom, city, castle, village, monastery or priory).

    • Social organization: King, Earls, barons, bishops, nobles, knights, monks, merchants, artisans, farmers (serfs or freemen), outlaws.

    • For war the King needs an army. It's gathered by earls, barons and knights in exchange for land, which are worked by farmers. With the wealth generated by these lands, nobles finance the army they get. The richness comes from taxes and licenses paid by farmers, merchants and artisans.



Finally, next you have links of other interesting book I have read:


3 comments:

Abarajithan Gnaneswaran said...

I also loved this book and this is one of my favorites. I've written a review here:

http://aba-thoughts.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-pillars-of-earth-ken-follett-book.html

Frank said...

I have read your review and I liked it a lot.

Frank said...

I have read your review and I liked it a lot.