Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Book That Took Over My Life

For the past two months, our church book club's mission has been to read Ken Follet's best-seller (and Oprah book) Pillars of the Earth. We took two months to read it, because it is 973 pages, after all (seems long but doesn't compete with Les Miserables, which I started last summer on the way to Paris, and which is 1463 pages in the Signet edition).

I did start, dutifully, sometime in June. But it was a big book, and there was VBS, and there were a couple of funerals, and I didn't want to take the book on vacation with me. And, to be perfectly honest with you, I felt sort of resentful of this big book, and it didn't really grab me at the beginning the way people told me it would. I just wanted to keep reading Maisie Dobbs.

But after three Maisie Dobbs mysteries, I saw the handwriting on the wall, and returned to the Middle Ages, to Tom Builder, and Prior Philip and Aliena (as well as the evil characters: William Hamleigh, Bishop Waleran, and various and sundry other unsavory characters). I was still rebelling in my heart, but I did want to discuss the book with the book group, and I was also seized with another emotion: "I will NOT let this book defeat me!" I said to my husband.

You see, as of Sunday, I was only three hundred pages into this book.

But tonight, I finished it.

It is book #26.

I will say this about it: it's not great literature. It's not Les Miserables, which I still want to read, although I might have to take a sabbatical to do it. The characters don't have too many more dimensions than one. Prude that I am, I did think some of the sex and violence was gratuitous.

But it's a good story. And how can you not love a story that has building a cathedral at the heart of it?


Mompriest said...

Glad you finished it and feel such a sense of satisfaction with that fact, even if not so much with the book itself....

Barbara B. said...

Hmm... 973 pages seems kind of long for not great literature. So don't know that I will rush out and get a copy. It's cool you hung with it though!

Rev Scott said...

Agreed, although I found myself swept into the story fairly quickly. Follett has written better, IMHO - The Eye of the Needle is much better, not to mention shorter.

Kievas said...

I haven't read anything by Ken Follett in a long while. My longest read in recent memory was Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. I should be a quick read for you :)

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Congrats on the perseverence.

A word of advice on Les Miserables . . . well, two actually. Make sure you get a decent translation. (I read one done about 1900, and it nearly did me in.) And give yourself permission to skip the endlessly long section on the Paris sewers if you feel bogged down there.