The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
First published in 1989 by Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-330-45013-3, 1076 pages long.
A book set in 12th century England it covers the period from 1123 to 1174. For anyone interested in history, particularly medieval history, this book is astonishing in its attention to detail.
In Ken Follett's introduction he admits that this book nearly never got written. He is better known as a "thriller" writer, but this idea was in his head for ten years before he actually started writing it. It began with his fascination of medieval architecture, churches and cathedrals in particular. The way they were built at a time without today's technology, power tools or understanding of modern engineering. They were also poor. Only the rich and powerful rode horses. The rest went by foot. And yet many of those buildings, built nine hundred years ago, still stand today.
Relegion dominated peoples lives and the monasteries were the closest thing to the welfare system. Ken Follett explores the daily lives of both the rich and poor, during times of wealth and famine. Today, politicians and bankers, more or less rule peoples lives. Then, it was the Kings and Bishops, Squires and Earls. Someone who was rich one day, residing in a castle, could, the next, be starving in a prison.
This book contains plenty of violence, including rape, pillage and murder, but it is the love stories, entwined through the generations, which capture. This book is such a page turner, that, despite its length, I read it in a couple of weeks. It is definitely one of my favourite books. At the end of the book we are given the first chapter of his sequel, "World Without End", which I will now be looking out for.