Saturday, September 19, 2015

The 'Pillars of the Earth' Absolutely Amazed Me

Ken Follett (@KMFollett) has always been one of my favorite authors. But recently, I developed an amazing new respect for his writing abilities, so much so that I'm afraid I could never even come close to being as good a writer as he is.

Of course, if I was able to quit my job and write novels full time, which is what I really want to do, I would have an office full of admins, fact checkers and historians to call on as well. And maybe some day I will.

Meanwhile, I picked up Pillars of the Earth at a tag sale and was absolutely floored that the man who wrote The Third Twin and The Man From St. Petersburg wrote this!!!

The historic facts are exceptional. I loved this book so much -- all 983 pages of it -- that today I went to the Norwalk Library and checked out World Without End -- the sequel to PotE -- which actually takes place 200 years later.

Pillars of the Earth takes place in the 1100s. The stories are heartwrenching. Agnes dies during childbirth and because the family is homeless and penniless, the father, knowing they can't feed the child, leaves the newborn on top on his mother's grave where it will either die of starvation or animals will kill it.

If you don't own a horse, you walk. You walk for days and days. The poor are served meals at the priories, which are like monastaries. Then they are allowed to sleep indoors on the floor of a large room. No one drinks water. Everyone, even small children -- drink watered down ale. Grownups with money drink more robust ale and wine.

Throughout this entire book, a cathedral is being made. The cathedral is so huge, and the labor is so manual, that it takes about 30 years to finish. Thomas the builder starts it, but when he is killed in a raid, his stepson Jack grows up to finish the job. The details of each brick and wall and arch were a little monotonous, but I just kept reminding myself about the knowledge in Ken Follett's brain and how amazed I was at the extent of it.

And I, of course, learned things about the 1100s I didn't know. Such as, there's no separation of church and state back then. The church practically runs the state. They own land and collect rent and won't hesitate to evict you it you fall behind on your payments. And soldiers don't get paid by the government like they do today. Back then, a knight had to put together his own team, and he was responsible for buying his own war horse, his own armor (of course), and supplying the same for his men, while paying them a weekly wage. How did a knight get paid? He pillaged! Then he sold what ever he took. If he didn't pillage, he made no money. I always thought they pillaged because they were mean and horrid creatures.

I would have thought that that book would have taken Follett 10 years at least to write. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of book -- the kind you say whew, I did it. I can die and go to heaven now. But it actually only took him three years. And he turned around and wrote a 1,000 page sequel!!! And he's still writing 1,000-page books today. He just finished a trilogy of them.

In any case, if you're a reader who loves fiction but also loves history, and isn't afraid of 1,000 pages, this is a good book for you. Enjoy the read and the ride!

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.