Historical Fiction

The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

4 August 2019
The Pillars of the Earth Book Cover The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett
Historical Fiction
13 July 2017

A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth is Ken Follett's classic historical masterpiece.


1135 and civil war, famine and religious strife abound. With his family on the verge of starvation, mason Tom Builder dreams of the day that he can use his talents to create and build a cathedral like no other.


Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, is resourceful, but with money scarce he knows that for his town to survive it must find a way to thrive, and so he makes the decision to build within it the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known.


As Tom and Philip meet so begins an epic tale of ambition, anarchy and absolute power. In a world beset by strife and enemies that would thwart their plans, they will stop at nothing to achieve their ambitions in a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother . . .

The Pillars of the Earth is the first in The Kingsbridge Novels series, followed by World Without End and A Column of Fire.


If you ever wanted to use the words Epic and Classic in a book review, The Pillars of the Earth is a book that upholds that accolade. It is a truly fabulous masterpiece of historical fiction based in England in the 12th Century. The sense of time and place are vividly drawn and the fragility and harshness of life shadow each of the characters.

The array of characters are impressively developed, and with over 1000 pages in the novel, this becomes a generational journey spanning many decades and gives us a glimpse of how it was to grow and age in medieval England. Multiple threads tell the stories of individuals and families and their experiences of survival, jealousy, power and what life and neighbours can throw at them. All are explored with colourful detail, in an unforgiving period where right and wrong, and our sense of justice is tested to the limit. 

The building of a cathedral at Kingsbridge is the cornerstone of this engrossing novel. It is a story that deals with the age-old battle of good versus evil, where evil manifests itself in men’s hearts and ambitions, and where better to play that out but in the sight of God’s holy church. How religious affiliation can bring out the principles of some men and the skulduggery of others. What good men are forced to do and what bad men are capable of doing. 

With a book, this long, praise has to be given to the fact that the momentum of the story never faltered and after investing so much time within its engrossing pages, it is difficult to come to terms with normality when the book is finished. I would highly recommend reading this book and it does occupy a place on my favourites shelf.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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