Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Read For Your Health - The Oprah Book Club Selection Challenge

....Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me....Oh - time for another blog post.....

Oprah’s Book Club Selection – My Personal Project

The Book For May, 2010: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

If you are a regular reader of All Trails Lead Home, you know that I have set a personal goal for the next year – Read and report on one book from Oprah’s Book Club each month until April, 2011.

My second choice in this journey was almost more than I could handle – Oprah’s 60th selection - Ken Follett’s epic 12th century novel Pillars of the Earth. Because of limited reading time, I decided to listen to the CD version of the book on my commute and various travels. I have to tell you – if you choose to read this book, it must be a long-term commitment. The book is contained on 32 (yes, 32!) CD’s. 976 pages if you choose to read the old-fashioned way. At least my public library was kind enough to package the CD’s in Part 1 and Part 2 – 16 CD’s each. I took every bit of my 3 week check-out period to get through each part.

First published in 1989, this historical novel pays homage to Follett’s love of church architecture, which I do not share. However, although the building of a cathedral is central to the plot, Follett doesn’t unduly dwell on the details of how this is actually done. The few times he lingered a little too long on something that only an architect could love, I will admit to fast-forwarding a little.

The real stars of this show are the compelling characters: Tom Builder, the, well, builder, who teams with the good and honorable, but wily prior of the Kingsbridge monastery, Philip, to raise the beautiful cathedral; Lady Aliena, the heroine of the story who rose from a horrendous experience to become a strong player in the intrigue and politics of the day; Philip, Prior of Kingsbridge, and the hero Jack, brilliant but unpredictable son of a gentle story-teller and a suspected witch. The evil ones – Brutal William Hamleigh and his strange, crafty mother, the corrupt Bishop Wallerin Bygod, the animalistic Alfred – half-brother of Jack.

Final verdict after 976 pages (32 cd’s)….Pillars of the Earth is a great novel and well-worth the time commitment. Read it and you will not be sorry.

The book begins with a public hanging and a curse, and the frenetic pace slows only rarely. This is the type of book that you hate to put down. The best stories pit good against evil, and Follett’s story, at its core, does just that. The good characters are not perfect and are usually somewhat flawed, but the evil characters are bad to the bone.

Beware – there is brutality in this book, both to humans and animals. I totally skipped over a bear-baiting episode and a cat-stoning. Just didn’t want to deal with them. (Ironically, a friend who is also a Pillars fan, told me later that the cat escaped the stoning – something I would have known had I not taken the easy way out.)

A good companion website to the book is:

I made it through the 32 disks and was sad when it finally came to an end. This book was a good and trusted companion on my drives to and from work and the longer treks to visit family. The book was satisfying, even though the really bad guys took way too long to get their just rewards! I didn’t just like the book, I loved it. A true epic, historical tale, and you don’t even have to be a history fan to enjoy it.

There is an eagerly-awaited mini-series based on this book coming up this summer on STARZ. This might be a good reason to subscribe, at least until you see the movie.

Follett has released a sequel to Pillars of the Earth entitled World Without End. A friend of mine read it and loved it, so I’ll probably give it a try when this Oprah challenge is finished.

Out of 5 stars, I give Pillars of the Earth….

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