I am often asked ‘what is my favourite book?’ It is either Wuthering Heights or Shadows of the Wind – in case you are wondering. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is for me the one book that I think everyone should read. I know that this is quite a big claim. But I stand by it. In the College library this book has reared its head again because it is one of the books that I wrapped up in brown paper. Young Christopher Nye guessed what it was because Thomas Nye had just finished it! And in the middle of our conversation, trying to explain to several boys that,’Yes, it is really about the building of a cathedral…’ Jane Teal the archivist made off with it, as unbelievably she had not read it.
The building of a cathedral is an unlikely subject and many boys look at me askance when I tell them to read it. However, there is always help at hand in the form of another boy who says, ‘Yeah, my whole family have read it!’ or ‘I have seen that on our bookshelf…my dad loves that book.’
It brings to life the Middle Ages in an epic tale that does indeed centre around the lives of those involved with the building of the most amazing Gothic cathedral ever built. It has all the ingredients required – a struggle between good and evil, political intrigue between the church and state, and strife between brothers. Of course there is an enduring love story and even a ‘witch’ that casts a spell in the opening lines. The cathedral was based on Salisbury – pictured below.It is indeed magnificent.
When I was twenty odd and had just finished the novel, I happened to be in Devon and noticed a place called Kingsbridge on the map. I excitedly drove off thinking that this must be the place, hoping to see the cathedral. When I arrived, I discovered the smallest village that barely even had a pub to have lunch in! Apparently there are several places called Kingsbridge and the cathedral is actually all fictional!
Ken Follett says of the novel:
This is my most popular book. It still sells about 100 000 copies a year in paperback in the US, it was number one in the UK and Italy and it was on the German best seller list for six years. It’s overwhelmingly the book that readers talk to me about when I meet them in bookshops. It’s becoming a cult.
I believe he is right. It has been turned into a board game and a mini-series and Oprah has a whole website dedicated to it!
Mr Leese has often mooted the idea that ever boy and staff member in the school should read the same book. (Hopefully not at the same time!)
Obviously, I believe that this book should be it. And not just because it is a great read. With our very own cathedral’s life in the balance, it would be an entertaining yet informative insight into the drama that can surround the building industry – even in the 12th Century.
Here is a link to the prologue if you want a taster:http://ken-follett.com/bibliography/the_pillars_of_the_earth/prologue.html
Have you read it?