Friday, March 12, 2010

The Pillars of the Earth

We had an interesting group of ten this week. There are about 20 names in the email group, yet we almost always have 8-10 people - just not the same ones. We were delighted to welcome Luci, who joined us this week.

We talked over the longest book we've read in the shortest discussion time and were in agreement that a shorter book might have been a better book. It was very readable and there was no one who did not like it, though there didn't seem to be any unanswered questions by the time the book was closed which didn't give room for directed discussion - not that we lacked for things to say.

Mr. Follett has a reputation as suspense fiction author, but he has a personal passion for cathedrals and their construction, and in this book, he brought the two things together. He has been criticized for using 20th century thought and language in a 13th century setting. We talked about it and couldn't help but think that it was a deliberate choice to appeal to his established audience. That construct has met with mixed approval. It's hard to argue with success since this is his best selling book. I was one of those who struggled with contemporary trendy language. "Get. Out. Of. Here." That bothered me..

We also felt that he could have moved the pace faster if he had reduced the amount of internal dialogue. When young Jack set fire to the church ceiling, the pace that should have been breathless was instead glacial, as he provided us with every thought and misgiving that crossed Jack's mind.

Favorite character? I think it was between Ellen and Prior Phillip. If you weren't there, please tell us what you thought.


  1. I think you summed up our discussion pretty well. Our biggest problem was the use of language. It was not authentic. Again, something we thought was deliberate on his part.
    We also discussed how the characters lacked the capacity for higher intellectual and spiritual pursuits. The conclusion by all of us was that since they were so busy surviving, i.e. finding food, shelter and protection, they had no time to pursue anything else.
    In the introduction Follett apologizes for Prior Phillip's lack of deep spirituality, citing that since he was an atheist he did not dwell on such things. We agreed that a writer cannot write what he does not know.
    Perhaps that was why his use of language was so modern? He didn't take the time to study and research language use in the 13th century?
    Just a thought.

  2. Thanks, Sharon, for the overview. I always admire how you're able to so accurately and vividly recount our meetings and the books we've read. I really like your adding our reading list to the blog.