30 December 2007

Good but not Great

I just finished "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. I gather this is a shade more highbrow than his other books (although I haven't read any of his other books AFAIK), and it was good. It's a historical novel about the building of Kingsbridge Cathedral, and it brings in lots of information about medieval architecture, English civil wars, church vs. state in merry olde Englande, and so forth.

Those parts were all good, but... it's hard not to compare this to Iain Pears' "An Instance of the Fingerpost," which is the finest historical novel even written, and it definitely suffers in the comparison. The characters in Follett's book are well-drawn, but not always well-motivated; there are a few too many convenient coincidences and a few superfluous elements. So, if you like historical novels, Pillars is definitely worth a read; however, everyone (who has the patience) should read Instance of the Fingerpost.

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