It is very difficult to place the genre of this book. It is a mix of history and fiction and fictional-history at the same time. The main storyline of Philip: Prior of Kingsbridge, England wanting to build a cathedral to expand his priory is fiction but this story is interwoven with the real history and characters from middle of 12th century England. There is the usual anarchy, wars, struggle between various factions of royal families, one upmanship between Church and Aristocracy, poverty of common people and various social evils that plagued (pun intended) the country at that time.
I had never read anything from Ken Follett before but one friend suggested me “The Pillars of the Earth” and I was really glad at the recommendation. Through the struggle of Philip in building the Cathedral, the 12th century England opened up for me as though I was seeing it live. The narrative is kept simple and you just flow with the storyline as it proceeds through ups and downs in the life of Philip and the stonemason Tom Builder and later on his son Jack. There are actual characters from history but somehow I was more interested in the lives of fictional ones throughout the book.
The most interesting thing in the book for me was the idea of life revolving around Church and Kings. The way town of Kingsbridge develops and how it changes fortunes of people living there is amazing. That was the time when a large construction of cathedral could change the lives of generations and help in creation of towns and cities. There was a lack of any other industry and activities of Church influenced lives of people in every possible way. The other activity affecting economy and lives of people was war which once started could go on for years and cripple the economy completely.
I have read some other books of Ken Follett as well and I will write about them later but this one is definitely the best.
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