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Ken Follett is one of the world's best-loved authors, selling more than 160 million copies of his thirty books. Follett's first bestseller was Eye of the Needle, a spy story set in the Second World War. In 1989 The Pillars of the Earth was published, and has since become the author's most successful novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah's Book Club pick. Its sequels, World Without End and A Column of Fire, proved equally popular, and the Kingsbridge series has sold 38 million copies worldwide. Follett lives in Hertfordshire, England, with his wife Barbara. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren, and three Labradors.
With this book, Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner, escaping the narrow genre of suspense thrillers to take credit for a historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and detail and memorable characterization. Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through four decades during which social and political upheaval and the internal politics of the church affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. The insightful portrayals of an idealistic master builder, a pious, dogmatic but compassionate prior and an unscrupulous, ruthless bishop are balanced by those of a trio of independent, resourceful women (one of them quite loathesome) who can stand on their own as memorable characters in any genre. Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow on ensuing events, the narrative is a seesaw of tension in which circumstances change with shocking but true-to-life unpredictability. Follett's impeccable pacing builds suspense in a balanced narrative that offers action, intrigue, violence and passion as well as the step-by-step description of an edifice rising in slow stages, its progress tied to the vicissitudes of fortune and the permutations of evolving architectural style. Follett's depiction of the precarious balance of power between monarchy and religion in the Middle Ages, and of the effects of social upheavals and the forces of nature (storms, famines) on political events; his ability to convey the fine points of architecture so that the cathedral becomes clearly visualized in the reader's mind; and above all, his portrayals of the enduring human emotions of ambition, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge and love, result in a highly engrossing narrative. Manipulating a complex plot in which the characters interact against a broad canvas of medieval life, Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale. 400,000 first printing; $400,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main dual selection; author tour. (Sept.)
A radical departure from Follett's novels of international suspense and intrigue, this chronicles the vicissitudes of a prior, his master builder, and their community as they struggle to build a cathedral and protect themselves during the tumultuous 12th century, when the empress Maud and Stephen are fighting for the crown of England after the death of Henry I. The plot is less tightly controlled than those in Follett's contemporary works, and despite the wealth of historical detail, especially concerning architecture and construction, much of the language as well as the psychology of the characters and their relationships remains firmly rooted in the 20th century. This will appeal more to lovers of exciting adventure stories than true devotees of historical fiction. Literary Guild dual main selection.-- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass.
"Follett is a master." --The Washington Post "Wonderful . . . will hold you, fascinate you, surround you." --Chicago Sun-Times "A towering tale . . . a ripping read. . . . There's murder, arson, treachery, torture, love, and lust." --The New York Daily News "Ken Follett takes a giant step." --San Francisco Chronicle "Enormous and brilliant . . . a great epic tale . . . crammed with characters unbelievably alive across the great gulf of centuries . . . touches all human emotion--love and hate, loyalty and treachery, hope and despair. See for yourself. This is truly a novel to get lost in." --Cosmopolitan "With this book, Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner . . . a historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere, and memorable characterization. Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow, the narrative is a seesaw of tension, suspense, impeccable pacing . . . action, intrigue, violence, passion, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge, and love. A love that entertains, instructs, and satisfies on a grand scale." --Publishers Weekly "An extraordinary epic buttressed by suspense . . . a mystifying puzzle involving the execution of an innocent man . . . the erection of a magnificent cathedral . . . romance, rivalry, and spectacle. A monumental masterpiece . . . a towering triumph from a major talent." --Booklist