Finished October 31
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
This is the first in a trilogy. I've had it on my shelf for a while, tried it once years ago and couldn't get into it, so took it on a recent vacation for an airplane read. Started it on my trip home and got through more than half and have been carrying it around reading bits until I finally finished it today.
I enjoyed it and I think my recent read of The Plantagenets helped as I was better grounded in the history around the story this time. The story begins in 1123, with a young man being hanged, and a young pregnant woman cursing the men responsible, and goes until 1174, when King Henry performed penance for the death of Thomas Becket.
After the initial scene the action jumps ahead a few years to follow a mason, Tom Builder, as he loses a project, and makes some bad choices, bringing him to abject poverty before he finds a new position in the the town of Kingsbridge where the priory needs repair.
The prior at Kingsbridge, Prior Philip is young for his position, but came to the church young when his parents were both killed. Both he and his brother Francis were taken in by the church and Francis became a priest, while Philip became a monk.
The local earl is a widower and his daughter, Aliena, is a girl of independent spirit, with ideas of her own about governance and marriage. Her refusal of the marriage arranged by her father sets in motion a strong resentment by her jilted fiance, one that he will carry with him his entire life.
All these characters come together in Kingsbridge as the priory is rebuilt, and the rivalries at the religious level, the local governance level, and the royal level have their effects on the town and its development. The characters' lives intertwine and we see them make good choices and bad ones as they face the many challenges that life and their enemies throw at them.
An interesting look at a more human level of history, told through imagined characters set in real historical events.