The Pillars of the Earth

imgThe pillars of the earth3I think I knew from the moment I started this blog that I need to dedicate this one post to the one book that has left an impression on me as far back as the time when I was still in high school.

I developed a love of reading ever since I was a kid. I started with comic books that ranged from Archie comics, to Beetle Bailey comics, to the Chinese comic sensation Lao Foo Tse. I eventually graduated to every teenage girl’s romantic fantasy of Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams.

It was this book: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, that got me started on bestsellers and adult fiction.

My brother, who is himself an avid reader of fiction as well, got me started to read this book.

By page 1, I was already hooked.

Set in England in the 12th Century, the book’s centerpiece is the building of a cathedral in a little town called Kingsbridge. The story does not teach you how a cathedral is built. It tells the story instead of the journey of a builder in bringing to life the cathedral of his dreams, and the journey of the other people in his life who somehow affect how things in his life unfold, that somehow has an effect on whether his cathedral gets built or not.

His story is not unusual and nothing out-of-the-ordinary — unless you factor in the 12th Century setting. But his life story and life journey is not something unfamiliar to most of us. We all know the dichotomy of a life filled with both joy and pain, and how each one contributes to making each other more potent. And then there’s the story of how sometimes the concept of right and wrong are compromised for the sake of the greater good. And then there’s the tragic stories of how injustice can destroy the lives of the undeserving.

Aside from its authenticity and depth, what I’ve always loved about this book is that it poignantly shows human frailty at its best and worst. It portrays the weaknesses, vulnerabilities and insecurities of people — whether they’re rich and powerful aristocrats; Bishops and Cardinals whose ambitions betray even their own conscience; common everyday people who struggle on a daily basis just to survive; or even humble and forthright builders who only want to create the grandest masterpiece in their lifetime.

It is very well-written, and in the grand tradition of what makes stories fascinating and gripping, it makes for the perfect curled-up-in-your-couch reading afternoon.