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32 Before 32: The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett

I only got into audiobooks recently. My habit was to listen to the news in the car, but over time, the news just wore on me. I grew tired of listening to everyone killing and hating and complaining. I was perusing the books at the Dahntahn Carnegie Library, when it struck me: Forget the news! I’ll just listen to stories!

Dahntahn’s selection isn’t the greatest for books on CD.  I could usually find something that interested me, but not a whole lot. Then I checked out the collection at Main, and I was in loooove. It took a great deal of restraint, but I managed to only carry home 3 books my first visit.

While I was there, I spotted it: The thirty two disc unabridged audiobook of The Pillars of the Earth. I didn’t know much about the book other than I heard it was “good.” And being that it was SO ridiculously long, I felt like listening to the whole thing would be something of an accomplishment, something perfect for my 32 before 32 list.

Pillars of the Earth

I started listening to it right after the new year, and I finished it just tonight. There were a few times I had to turn it off while Baby Beez was in the car, because battle scenes and love scenes aren’t appropriate for young ears (see, I can responsibly parent sometimes!) Sometimes when I’ve got a lot of discs to go through in a book, I get bored and impatient. With Pillars, however, I wasn’t impatient for a second. I was immediately drawn in, and remained entranced for all FORTY ONE hours of the story.

The mini-synopsis: This is a story of a determined monk, and his life’s work of building a cathedral.

But the story isn’t just about the monk and the cathedral. The myriad characters from all walks of life are complex, endearing or horrible, or sometimes both. Their lives intersect in unexpected and complex ways. The story is remarkably layered, but still relatable on an emotional level.

There were two things that I loved best about this book: (1) It left me morally satisfied. The good people get their rewards, the bad people meet horrible ends, and (2) Follett has a talented way of describing the extremely subtle political interactions, both within the clergy, and between the clergy and nobility, in a fashion that is easily understandable to the reader, but simultaneously not insultingly dumbed-down or boringly dry.

I’m not a patient reader. I like things that go fast, and I like the satisfaction of quickly checking books off my list. The enormity of Pillars did not deter me, because it kept me unerringly engaged. It is not often I say this, but I was a little sad when I came to the end, because I enjoyed the story so much.


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