What do you think of Follette, as author?

woodnymph2_gwJanuary 25, 2014

As some of you know, I've been taking a course on Gothic Art and Architecture. A friend has suggested that I read "Pillars of the Earth". Would reading this lengthy tome enlighten me further as to the development of the building of great cathedrals and the Medieval mind-set?

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kathy_t

Oh my yes. After reading Pillars of the Earth, you will feel like you have participated as a laborer in the building a great cathedral. You'll be dirty and sweaty, have sore muscles, and will have breathed lots of rock dust into your lungs. At least, that's my memory of the novel. Of course, one can never know how accurate Follett's depiction is, but it certainly felt real to me.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 11:40AM
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rosefolly

To the best of my knowledge he got the architectural details pretty accurately. As for life in the Middle Ages, I think he prettied it up just a bit, but not out of recognition, just enough to make modern people able to bond with the characters. It is a fun book to read, reminding me a bit of James Michener, or Michener if he would stay with the same set of people and not keep time hopping forward.

Rosefolly

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 11:53AM
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veer

Mary, in a word "No". Follett writes popular stories and his 'mind-set' and that of his characters is very modern. It sounds as though you need something far more educational/learned.
It seems to be an enormous subject to cover and I suppose you are doing the whole of Europe. What is your 'starting date?
Cathedrals of England by Alec Clifton-Taylor , Gothic Cathedrals by Christopher Wilson and Cathedral Builders of the Middle Ages by Alain Erland-Brandenburg would be useful informative reads.
I notice that hard-backed copies, in good condition can be bought for as little as one penny from Amazon.co.uk Got to be a bargain even with postage added.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 12:05PM
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woodnymph2_gw

Thanks, everyone.
Vee, I appreciate your candor. Yes, we are studying the Gothic on the continent as well as in England. The starting date is in the 1100's, with St. Denis as being the first "Gothic" cathedral, moving on to Chartres. Laon, and others in the Ile de France.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 12:28PM
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sherwood38

Mary I didn't much care for Pillars, but thought that Sarum by Rutherfurd was a much better book IMO!

Pat

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 1:36PM
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kathy_t

I enjoyed both Sarum and Pillars of the Earth. If memory serves me (it has been some years since I read either book), Sarum was a bit more Michner-esque in that it covered a long span of history in a specific region, while Pillars concentrated on the building of the cathedral. Perhaps someone can confirm or correct my admittedly imperfect memory.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 2:15PM
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friedag

Mary, I'll add another to Vee's list: The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral by Robert A. Scott

From Amazon's synopsis: While most books about Gothic cathedrals focus on a particular building or on the cathedrals of a specific region, The Gothic Enterprise considers the idea of the cathedral as a humanly created space. Scott discusses why an impoverished people would commit so many social and personal resources to building something so physically stupendous and what this says about their ideas of the sacred, especially the vital role they ascribed to the divine as a protector against the dangers of everyday life.Interestingly, I note that Ken Follett provided a blurb for The Gothic Enterprise. I started Pillars... but abandoned it because I thought: Why would I want to read fiction when I can read a real history with an interdisciplinary approach, including anthropology and the psychology of the Medieval mind?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 4:41PM
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janalyn

I read Pillars decades ago and since the name doesn't bring back a bad taste in the mouth, I must have liked it then.

Mary, I have been to Europe several times and have always been fascinated by the cathedrals - the history of the building and the men who were instrumental in creating them. The architects were like celebrities in that time, I think. I do have Pillars recorded on my PVR but have yet to getting around to watching it. It was done by Masterpiece Theatre and I know it won several awards. I am suggesting this because hopefully it will have visuals - imo these buildings are meant to be seen to be appreciated. I am not sure the written word can do them justice.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 8:25PM
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woodnymph2_gw

Thanks again. That one, Frieda, sounds interesting. I, too, am interested in the "psychology" of the Medieval mind-set.

Janalyn, yes, there are many slides which we are watching. Also, fortunately, I lived one year in Paris and had extensive travels throughout the continent, as well as England. Some of the cathedrals which I was most impressed by: Chartres (of course!), Salisbury Cathedral in England, Cologne Cathedral in Germany, and Notre Dame, in Paris. There is such an amazing variety in the architecture in the various countries. I agree, these have to be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 11:26AM
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yoyobon_gw

A friend who is a retired college professor of English Literature highly recommended it to me.
She said that the historical detail is well researched and the story itself is extremely compelling.

I have it to be read next !!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 2:12PM
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carolyn_ky

As far as just being readable and without historical knowledge of cathedrals, I love seeing them IRL and I loved reading Pillars of the Earth. I also liked World Without End, set two centuries on in the same town. I know some people objected to the violence in them, maybe discussed here on RP, but it didn't spoil the books for me.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 2:37PM
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kathy_t

I stumbled on an odd tidbit of information this evening, which is that Pillars of the Earth is #33 on the BBC's "The Big Read" - a list of the 200 most-loved novels of the British public.

(I actually was looking up information about Salman Rushdie's Midnight Children, learned that it was on The Big Read list, and couldn't help wondering what else was on the list.)

Here is a link that might be useful: The Big Read

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 9:29PM
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janalyn

I checked out the list and for once, I can honestly say, I have read most of them. I have bookmarked it for future reference - the SFF one that we have has introduced me to some great books that I prob would never have found. Thanks kathy

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 11:21PM
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carolyn_ky

I've read 47 in the first 100 and 21 in the second. Some of them I have seen in movies on or TV, and a very few I have started to read and given up on. Interesting list.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 7:16PM
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rosefolly

Carolyn, I've read the same number you have in each list, give or take one or two where I could not exactly remember. Probably not the same books, but still!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 10:27PM
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sherwood38

I counted that I have read 48 in the 1st 100, but only 23 in the 2nd 100. Some I did start, but abandoned as not to my liking, and some I have never heard of!

Pat

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 12:00AM
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colleenoz

We've had both "Pillars of the Earth" and "Fall of Giants" for book club at different times. I really enjoyed Pillars of the Earth" but found "Fall of Giants" formulaic and predictable.

This post was edited by colleenoz on Sun, Feb 2, 14 at 23:32

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 11:31PM
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