Greetings. A few weeks ago I was at my local bookstore and was pleasantly surprised
to find a copy of Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth.” I had heard great things about
the book and wanted to read it for years. Like a clueless rube I bought it and looked
forward to losing myself in the massive tome.  
However, I did not find it ejoyable and struggled to finish it.
Now this Sisyphean task has finally come to an end, and my analysis can be
condensed to: What a load of horseshit!!!

What’s this? Why attack a book that has been voted one of the most beloved in
the UK, sold millions, got great reviews, and been featured on Oprah Winfrey's
book club (remind me not to join)?  Why not live and let live, if so many love it?

Reasons:

1) The modest and sensible author does not need to lash out at others
- A distasteful and cowardly concept.
All creators of inferior material must feel the lash, and twice the serving to
those who dare praise such pigswill.

2) On the front cover it actually says: “The classic masterpiece”
What gall! If an author/publishing company puts that on the cover they
should deliver just that: A flawless work of excellent quality, a tome
of prefect prose, plot, setting, character development etc etc.
If this isn’t a case for the Better Business Bureau, I don’t know what is.  



3) If it was an average book of inferior craftsmanship I wouldn’t
have bothered reading/commenting on it. But as I was taken in
by all the hype and wasted my time and money on this 1080
pager, I do think it needs to be knocked of its pedestal. 

4) The sheer mystery of it. How can it be so loved and get good reviews? 
 


In all honesty – I want to like Pillars. I love history, the Middle Ages,
English culture and cathedral architecture etc.
The basic idea is great. But I found the book to be badly written and mediocre
at best.  I don’t like to criticize another author’s work and was uncertain if I
should post this or not.
Hey, I am an unpublished author and will probably need to write for
years/decades before/if I become good at my hobby. So who am I to
criticize Mr. Follett? I don’t have anything against him or the book,
and I wish him nothing but continued success for the rest of
his writing career. But I do think that praise should be warranted, especially
when there are so many great books that seem to slip into oblivion.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this “mass psychosis” or “Emperor’s New Clothes”
scenario.  I can understand if people like, or even love this book - tastes differ.
But anyone who claims that Pillars is a well written book or a masterpiece needs
to get their head examined – annually for the rest of their lives.


 Spoiler alert!!! Well, not really, as I don’t think it’s worth reading.
Why this “masterpiece”should be downgraded to the status of toilet roll:

1) Simplistic Writing.
 “Tom opened the door. Tom sat down. Tom ate some porridge.
Tom took a shit” What happened to - show, don’t tell? 
The book often repeats itself or makes things overly clear.
“Tom took of his jacket because it was hot. Then wiped his brow because
he was warm.” 
We already know it’s hot for fucks sake!!! Everybody makes mistakes
like this, and it’s the editor’s job to point them out.
But in pillars it is on every other page. A post online said
that this is what happens when an author gets too famous/powerful to listen to
his editor, if he had one, and I agree.
The use of adjectives is another thing. Everything is Terrifyingly, joyously,
priestly, churchly,  overwhelmingly etc etc – the use of one word to express
what is going on is just lazy. 
Sometimes I thought that I was reading a children’s story. And maybe it is?
Call me old fashioned, but if this is the case, I’m not sure that all the
graphic sex and rape scenes are appropriate.  


2) Unrealistic plot. 
Ex.a) Tom’s wife dies in the middle of winter. He has no problem in digging
her grave in the frozen ground, and then has sex with a woman who just chooses
this moment to show up out of  the woods, naked but for a cape(in winter).
Both their children are mysteriously absent or asleep.  

b) Tom the humble mason
  singlehandedly designs a cathedral.   


c) The naked lady, nowclothed, publicly pisses on a bible, runs off in the woods,
is forgiven after a year and then comes back. Later she interrupts a wedding
by cutting off the head of a hen and curses the wedding, now she lives in the
woods for many years butis kind of forgiven in the end.
Come on!! This is supposed to be the Middle Ages where people could get their
tongues pulled out, eyes put out and gettheir noses or ears clipped for the
slightest infraction. 
 
d) A woman leaves England with her baby and travels (alone in the middle ages)
all over France and Spain to find her lost lover. Naturally they find each other
and on the way back they stumble (by chance) upon his grandparents in a
random village, an event that conveniently solves one of the great mysteries of
the novel.

e) A guy is imprisoned in a cell, but of course there is a lose stone
in the floor, so he immediately escapes.   

It just goes on and on. Ridiculous plot turns and quick fixes.

3) Unrealistic/unconvincing dialogue  
This is supposed to be the Middle Ages, and I can’t help but cringe
every time he uses modern slang or modern sayings in dialogue or narrative.  

4) One-dimensional characters 
Either they are very good or very bad, often with no real explanation.
And there is virtually no character development, save a few bad guys who
repent at the end and turn super good. 
 
5) Historical inaccuracies  
 
6) Graphic sex and rape scenes

I’m usually all for sleaze. But the graphic sex and rape scenes in this book
seem out of place, and is used to sensationalize, more than being convincing
parts of the story. Especially during the explicit rape scenes I get the feeling
that Ken is typing with is left hand and pulling himself off with the right. 
 
Some of the above quotes are made up to illustrate my point 

On amazon.com - kindle, a whopping 67% of the readers gave it a five star.

They rave:
“Beautifully written, historically rich”
“Utterly mesmerized by every page”
“Possibly the best book I have ever read”
“My Favorite All-time Book”

Are these people on crack, or simply glue?
Or perhaps they are from a parallel universe where Pillars is actually good?

I am usually against censorship, but as I neared the end of this 1080page practical joke
I began longing for a “Fahrenheit 451” society.  

And for those who still think it’s good – you’re wrong!!!
And that goes for you as well - mum.

I’d love to hear your views. So come on, shoot !!!

Adeus
 


Comments

07/28/2012 3:30pm

I still think Pillars is good - and I'm not wrong for liking it! I'm not a Follett-o-phile and don't feel the need to defend him with my dying breath, but here's a few of my reasons.

I liked that it was simply written: who wants to read 1000+ pages of intricate, convoluted prose? No one! It HAD to be simple.

I disagree about modern slang, I though he did a great job of describing everything in the language of the day - he talks about a leaden sky. A thousand years ago they knew what lead was, everyone could relate.

Unrealistic plot? Really Mr Demon Possessed Parrot? You're going to play that one? Ellen can run around in a cape in winter if it's a good enough cape from a big/warm enough animal. These people were tougher than us, they were brought up without central heating in harsh conditions, they won't feel cold in the same way. And 1000 years ago they did have sex with their children in the same room; they had to.

I agree that there is no character development - the bad are baaaad (in a bad way), hence the rape scenes to show just how goddamn bad these people are, and the good are very good. The bad get their due, which makes it satisfactory to read. The most interesting character was the cathedral itself - I was fascinated by its story and that took me all the way through to the end of his tome.

Literature, like all art, is subjective. No one is wrong to like a book! Unless it's Love in the Time of Cholera - if anyone likes that they should get locked up for the good of their family/neighbours/evolution of the species.

Reply
Gordon Hooper
07/30/2012 3:43pm

Hey. Good to read you comment, it is always more interesting to argue a point with someone, than being stuck with some agreeing fool ;)
Sorry about the delay, have not checked the site in a few days.

“Really Mr Demon Possessed Parrot?” Yepp, I’m definitely going to play that one. My book is unrealistic, juvenile and terribly offensive. But it does not pretend (like pillars) to be something other than just that – take it or leave it.

“Ellen can run around in a cape in winter if it's a good enough cape from a big/warm enough animal…” Sure she can. But why should she? It’s in the middle of winter for Christ sake! Why risk frostbite on her fanny?

“And 1000 years ago they did have sex with their children in the same room; they had to.”
That was not my point, but rather that it was so convenient that the kids were asleep and that Jack was mysteriously gone when she appeared.

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Gordon Hooper
07/30/2012 3:53pm

And by the way - you are wrong for liking "pillars" He he he...

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