Follett, Ken: The Pillars of the Earth
(researched by Maggie Hommel)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Ken Follett. The Pillars of the Earth. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. Copyright 1989 by Ken Follett (It appears that there was a simultaneous first edition published by Macmillan London in England in 1989.)

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First American edition published in hard cardboard cover with clothbound spine; cloth covers about 2.25 inches of front and back cover.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

973 pp. 488 leaves Illustrated pages and chapter heading pages are not numbered [1-11] 12-16 [17-22] 23-29 [30] 31-41 [42] 43-59 [60] 61-78 [79] 80-84 [85] 86-109 [110] 111-120 [121] 122-155 [156] 157-181 [182] 183-196 [197] 198-212 [213] 214-237 [238] 239-259 [260] 261-283 [284-287] 288-295 [296] 297-327 [328] 329-335 [336] 337-350 [351] 352-377 [378] 379-391 [392] 393-408 [409] 410-419 [420] 421-437 [438-441] 442-456 [457] 458-466 [467] 468-472 [473] 474-487 [488] 489-509 [510] 511-519 [520] 521-528 [529] 530-544 [545] 546-560 [561] 562-575 [576] 577-595 [596-599] 600-616 [617] 618-645 [646] 647-669 [670] 671-712 [713] 714-728 [729] 730-758 [759] 760-765 [766-770] 771-796 [797] 798-815 [816] 817-828 [829] 830-847 [848] 849-863 [864] 865-874 [875] 876-880 [881] 882-897 [898] 899-901 [902-905] 906-930 [931] 932-941 [942] 943-962 [963] 964-973 [3] 6 illus.: [18-19]; [284-285]; [438-439]; [596-597]; [766-767]; [902-903]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

First Edition is neither edited nor introduced.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

Full-spread black and white illustrations at each section break and accompanied by text (p. [18-19 ?Part One 1135-1136?]; [284-285 ?Part Two 1136-1137?]; [438-439 ?Part Three 1140-1142?]; [596-597 ?Part Four 1142-1145?]; [766-767 ?Part Five 1152-1155?]; [902-903 ?Part Six 1170-1174?]); illus. by Petra Röhur-Rouendaal, assisted by John Wormald.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

Book measures 15 cm by 23 cm, text 18.6 cm by 11 cm Text size: 83R Serif text font. Chapter numbers, section headings, and initial caps all in more stylized font style, also serif. Text size and presentation are attractive and readable; margins around text are approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inches on each page. Spacing between lines increases readability. Illustrations bleed off edges of pages. Each section is introduced by a blank facing page.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is white, smooth, and straight-edged. It is wove paper, and the texture is very thin, smooth, and almost slick. Paper stock is consistent throughout the book, and illustrations are printed on the same paper as text. The paper has browned slightly around the edges but is overall undamaged and clean.

11 Description of binding(s)

Hard cardboard cover with cloth binding wrapped around spine and overlapping about 2.25 inches onto front and back covers. Cloth is brown and cardboard is light brown. Grain type is linen texture cloth, not embossed. Gold foil [yellow gilt] stamping on spine and front cover of binding. Dust jacket: Front half includes brown and gold illustration with title in red letters and author?s name in gold gilt. Back of dust jacket includes white background and a photograph of the author. End papers are light yellowish brown in aged, marbled pattern, slightly thicker stock than text paper through rest of book. Front Cover: stamped ?Ken Follett? signature
Spine: (vertically printed from top to bottom) Ken Follett; The Pillars of the Earth; Morrow

12 Transcription of title page

Title page: The | [triple line rule] | Pillars | of the | Earth | [triple line rule] | KEN FOLLETT | WILLIAM MORROW AND COMPANY, INC. | [triple line vertical rules on each side of page] | NEW YORK T.P. verso: Copyright © 1989 by Ken Follett | Illustrations by Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, assisted by John Wormald | All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any | form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, | recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission | in writing from the Publisher. Inquiries should by addressed to Permissions | Department, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 105 Madison Ave., New York, | N. Y. 10016. | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | Follett, Ken. | The pillars of the earth / Ken Follett. | ISBN 0-688-04659-2 | 1. Great Britain?History?Stephen, 1123-1154?Fiction. | I. Title | PR6056.045P55 1989 89-9405 | 823?.914?dc20 CIP | Printed in the United States of America | First Edition | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 | BOOK DESIGN BY OKSANA KUSHNIR

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Ken Follett's papers are held at Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw, Michigan, including outlines, first drafts, notes and correspondence, original manuscripts and copies of early books now out of print.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Inside front flap copy: FPT ISBN 0-688-04659-2 $22.95 ?Ken Follett Pillars of the Earth: Ken Follett is known worldwide as the master of split-second suspense. Now, in The Pillars of the Earth, he reaches beyond the expected to achieve his most brilliant and remarkable novel. Everything his readers expect from Follett is here: intrigue, fast-paced action and passionate romance. But what makes The Pillars of the Earth extraordinary is the time?the twelfth century; the place?feudal England; and the subject?the building of a Gothic cathedral. The author has recreated the crude, flamboyant England of the Middle Ages in every detail. The forests, the walled towns, the castles and the monasteries become a familiar landscape. Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters?into their dreams, their labors and their loves: Tom, the master builder; Aliena, the ravishingly beautiful noblewoman; Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge; Jack, the artist in stone; and Ellen, the woman of the forest who casts a terrifying curse. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, each character is vividly brought to life. The building of the cathedral, with the almost eerie artistry of the unschooled stonemasons, is the center of the drama. (continued on back flap)? Back inside flap copy: ?(continued from front flap)Around the site of this construction, Follett weaves a story of betrayal, revenge and love, which begins with the public hanging of an innocent man and ends with the humiliation of a king. At once a sensuous and enduring love story and an epic that shines with the fierce spirit of a passionate age, The Pillars of the Earth is without doubt Ken Follett?s masterpiece. Ken Follett lives in London with his wife, Barbara, and children. He was only twenty-seven when he wrote Eye of the Needle. Since then he has written five more international best sellers. Published shortly after his fortieth birthday, The Pillars of the Earth is the culmination of a lifelong fascination with the astonishing Gothic cathedrals and the turbulent era that produced them. Jacket design by David Gatti Jacket illustration by Christopher Zacharow Dedication (facing t.p. verso): ?To Marie-Claire, the apple of my eye? Acknowledgments (p. [975]): I owe special thanks to Jean Gimpel, Geoffrey Hindley, Warren Hollister and Margaret Wade Labarge for giving me the benefit of their encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle Ages. I also thank Ian and Marjory Chapman for patience, encouragement and inspiration."

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

A book club edition was issued by Morrow in 1989. It seems to be about 3 cm smaller than the first edition, to have an introduction, and to have no illustrations. It is not clear whether the edition is hardcover or paperback. Pillars of the Earth. New York: Morrow, 1989. xii, 943p. 22 cm In addition, World Cat lists a 1989 Morrow version of The Pillars of the Earth that is 1288 p. (no illustrations, size, or hc/paper attributes listed). No verification of this edition has been found elsewhere. [OCLC World Cat; RLIN Eureka]

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

There is evidence of only one first edition printing run by Morrow.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

1989. New York: Penguin. (Paper.) 973 p. 1990. Macmillan London. (Paper.) 1075 p. 1990. New York: Signet. (Paper.) 983 p. ; ill. ; 18 cm. 1990. New York: New American Library. (Mass market paper.) 972 p. ; 18 cm. 1990. New York: Penguin. (Paper.) 983 p. ; 18 cm 1999. New York; Penguin Group. (Trade paper.) 973p. ; ill. ; 23 cm. 1999. New York: Plume. 1999. Pan Macmillan. 10th Anniversary ed. xviii, 1075 p. ; 18 cm. (Reproduced with a new introduction by the author.) Feb. 2002. New American Library. (Trade Paper) 973 p. ; 23 cm.

6 Last date in print?

There are at least two editions still in print as of 2006: 2002 New American Library (trade paper) 976 p. 1990 Signet (mass market paper) 992 p. [Books in Print]

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Cumulative sales figures can not be determined.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

Bowker Annual places Pillars of the Earth at #9 on its list of bestsellers for 1989, although an exact sales figure is not listed because the publisher requested that the number be withheld. For that year, Bowker reports that the #10 book sold 396,270 and the #8 sold 530,280. claims 100,000 paperback copies have been sold per year in the U.S. up through 2005.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

Publisher's Weekly, May 19, 1989. A photo of Ken Follett is displayed on the cover of the May 19, 1989 issue of Publisher's Weekly with this caption: "Ken Follett: You know him as the master of split-second suspense. Now in his grandest novel, he touches the eternal." [referring to The Pillars of the Earth] A full-spread advertisement follows on the first two inner pages of the same issue with a photo of the first page of the novel, the cover, and this copy: "It begins with a curse, a song, and a hanging and it builds into a magnificent adventure no reader will ever forget. Ken Follett, the author of six #1 bestsellers, now takes a brilliant new turn in his extraordinary career to evoke on of the most flamboyant and fascinating periods in human history: England in the Middle Ages. ? $400,000 Marketing Campaign. In-store: August 30. Pub date: September 7. National print advertising. National radio advertising. Advance reading copies. Press kit. ABA display. 12-copy floor display. Carton stickers. National author tour and autographings. National coop. First printing: 400,000. A Dual Main Selection of the Literary Guild. Price: $22.95. ISBN 0-688-04659-2 William Morrow." Crown Books also regularly featured The Pillars of the Earth in its advertising in the Washington Post during late 1989. The copy in the Dec. 3, 1989 Washington Post ad accompanying a cover shot of the book reads "?The Pillars of the Earth' sweeps through twelfth-century England in an era of raging civil war. It tells of a group of men and women whose fates are linked to the building of a great cathedral, a site of bloodshed and treachery." The picture and description run between ads for two other books--Wayne Newton's autobiography and A Frugal Gourmet cookbook.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

The Publisher's Weekly ad (May 19, 1989) indicates that the publisher planned further promotion through radio, print ads, floor displays, author's tour and signings, and the issuing of advance reading copies.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Audio versions: 1989. Unabridged. Narr. by George Ralph. Grand Haven, Mich., Brilliance. 20 sound cassettes. 1989. Read by Tim Pigott-Smith. New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster Audioworks, 4 sound cassettes (360 min). 1989. Unabridged. Narr. by George Ralph. Grand Haven, Mich., Brilliance. 10 sound cassettes (30 hours). 1989. Read by David Case. Newport Beach, CA: Books on Tape, 28 sound cassettes (2520 min). 1989. Read by George Ralph. Lib. ed. Grand Haven, MI; Brilliance, 3 sound discs (ca. 30 hr.), digital; in mp3 format. 1989. Newport Beach, CA: Books on Tape, 11 sound cassettes (1 1/2 hr. each). 1990. Read by George Ralph. Grand Haven, Mich.: Brilliance, 20 sound cassettes (30 hrs). 1990. [S.l.: s.n.], 7 sound cassettes. (For use by the blind and physically handicapped. ) 2002. Abridged. Read by Tim Pigott-Smith. New York, NY: Encore, 4 sound cassettes (ca. 6 hr). Electronic version (mp3 format available for download online): 2004. [Grand Haven] : Brilliance Audio, Library ed. (Internet Resource; File; Sound Recording) [OCLC World Cat]

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

1990. Pilares de la Tierra. [Spanish] Buenos Aires: Emecé. 810 p. ; ill. ; 23 cm. 1990. La Pilares de la Tierra. [Spanish, translated by Rosalía Vázquez] Barcelona: Plaza & Janés. 2a ed. 1020 p. ; 22 cm. 1990. Die Säulen der Erde. [German] Bergisch Gladbach : Bastei Lubbe. 1990. Die Säulen der Erde: Roman. [German] Bergisch Gladbach : G. Lübbe. 1151 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. (aus dem Englischen von Gabriele Conrad, Till Lohmeyer und Christel Rost ; illustriert von Achim Kiel und Thomas Przygodda.) 1990. I pilastri della terra [Italian, translated by Roberta Rambelli.] 1st ed. Milano : Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1030 p. ; 23 cm. 1990. Taivaan pilarit [Finnish, translated by Anu Niroma.] Porvoo ; Helsinki ; Juva : WSOY, 946 s. ; 25 cm. 1991. La Pilares de la Tierra. [Spanish, translated by Rosalía Vázquez] Barcelona: Círculo de Lectores. 1053 p. ; 22 cm. 1991. Daiseido. gekan. [Japanese, translated by Kozaburo Yano] Tokyo : Shinchosha, 631 p. ; 16 cm. 1991. Daiseido. jokan. [Japanese, translated by Kozaburo Yano] Tokyo : Shinchosha. 601 p. ; 16 cm. 1991. Daiseido. chukan. [Japanese, translated by Kozaburo Yano] Tokyo : Shinchosha. 588 p. ; 16 cm. 1991. Los pilares de la tierra. [Spanish.] 1st ed. México : Edivisión, 1011 p. : ill. ; 21 cm. (illustrations by Petra Rohr-Roovendaal and John Wormald) 1992. Os pilares da terra. volume I. [Portuguese, translated by Paulo Azevedo.] Rio De Janeiro : Editora Rocco, 494 p. : ill. ; 21 cm. 1992. Os pilares da terra. volume II. [Portuguese, translated by Paulo Azevedo.] Rio De Janeiro : Editora Rocco, 607 p. : ill. ; 21 cm. 1992. Filary ziemi. [Polish, translated by Grzegorz Sitek] Warszawa : "C & S" : Agencja Praw Autorskich i "Interart", 3 v. ; 21 cm. 1992. Les piliers de la terre [French, translated by Jean Rosenthal.] LGF. 1 v. 1993. Stolpy zemli : v dvukh knigakh. [Russian] translated by Vadim Tetevin. Moskva : Novosti, 21 cm. 1993. A katedrális [Hungarian] [Pecs] : Victoria, 798 p. ; 20 cm. 1997. Filary ziemi [Polish, translated by Grzegorz Sitek.] Warszawa : PRIMA, Wyd. 1 ed. 2 v. ; 21 cm. 1998. Bir katedralin öyküsü. [Turkish, translated by Hilmi Artan.] Istanbul : Inkilâp, 779 p. ; 20 cm. 2003. Die Säulen der Erde: Roman. [German] Bergisch Gladbach : G. Lübbe. (paper) 1151 p. : ill. ; 19 cm. (aus dem Englischen von Gabriele Conrad, Till Lohmeyer und Christel Rost ; illustriert von Achim Kiel und Thomas Przygodda.) 2005. Les piliers de la terre [French, translated by Jean Rosenthal.] Paris : Stock, 2 v. ; 24 cm. [OCLC WOrld Cat; RLIN Eureka]

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

Follett released a later nonfiction book about the factual information behind The Pillars of the Earth. It contained portions of the text of The Pillars of the Earth, as well as photographs of and information about real cathedrals. Follett, Ken. Pillars of the Almighty. Illustrated by f-Stop Fitzgerald. Introduction by Simon Verity. New York: Morrow, 1994. states (as of April 2006) that Follett is currently working on a sequel to Pillars of the Earth titled World Without End. Follett hopes to have the book completed by May 2007, which would give the book a release date close to December 2007.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

(see an overview biography of Follett at Geoffrey Maurer's entry on Eye of the Needle)

Ken Follett is best known as a prolific writer of suspense and action-adventure spy thrillers. Thus the 1989 release of The Pillars of the Earth, a massive work about cathedral building in twelfth-century England, marked a landmark of sorts in his career. While Follett's aim in his early career was to make money and write bestsellers (Turner), The Pillars of the Earth was a risk; he followed his interests rather than a sure-fire formula. The work has changed how his writing has been perceived by the world.

Follett's early career encompassed ten novels, most written under various pseudonyms including Martin Martinsen, Bernard L. Ross, Zachary Stone, and Simon Myles (St. James). His first major success was the 1978 bestseller Eye of the Needle, which launched his U.S. career, made him internationally famous, and allowed him to dedicate himself to writing full time (Bernstock). Five other spy thrillers followed. The 1989 release of The Pillars of the Earth was the start of a six-year foray into historical novels (St. James).

Follett had been interested in cathedrals for many years ( Why did Pillars not appear until the late 1980s? Critic Turner argues that Follett had grown tired of writing thrillers and finally felt ready to write such an epic. Author Ramet points to more commercial reasons: a cathedral novel, not marketable in the 1970s, became feasible after the success of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, and the demise of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s signaled a downturn in the formerly lucrative spy genre. Follett describes writing Pillars as "exhausting" (, which may explain why (as of 2006) he has not attempted another historical novel on such a grand scale. In 1997 he returned to thrillers, addressing contemporary times and high technology, then more WWII spy thrillers with Jackdaws (2001) and Hornet Flight (2002). His most recent work is a biological terrorism thriller, Whiteout (2004) (

Since The Pillars of the Earth was a significant departure from his successful works, Follett's "publishers were a little nervous about such a very unlikely subject" ( and critical response was mixed (Ramet), but the book ultimately achieved success?it was on the New York Times bestseller list for 18 weeks, has achieved "worldwide cult status" (St. James), and is Follett's "most popular book" (Authors and Artists for Young Adults). Follett considers it his finest work (, and it has proved that he can be successful beyond the thriller genre.

Follett's personal life has seen changes as well. In 1982 he met Barbara Broer through political work with the Labour Party; he divorced his first wife, Mary, and married Barbara in 1984 ( Barbara was elected to the British Parliament in 1997 ( Follett's political activism has continued as well, though he says, "My writing always takes priority over anything I do politically" ( He writes by day, and also plays bass guitar in a blues band called "Damn Right I've Got The Blues" ( In 2000, Follett began donating his papers to the library at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan; by 2004 the library held all of his works, plus a significant amount of his manuscripts, papers, and correspondence. A dedication ceremony was held in that year for the official "Ken Follett Collection," with some of the material available through an online exhibit (Latuszek). Follett and his wife reside in Stevenage, England, and Follett is working on an upcoming sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, titled World Without End. Works Cited: Barbara Follett Web site. Accessed: 4 April 2006 Bernstock, Bernard and Thomas F. Staley, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Mystery and Thriller Writers Since 1940. Vol. 87 Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 50. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. St. James Press, 2000. "Ken Follett Biography and List of Works." (2000) Accessed: 30 March 2006. Ken Follett Official Web site. Accessed: 3 April 2006 Latuszek, Tom, Scott Mellendorf, and Jack G. Wood. "Ken Follett Virtual Exhibit." Saginaw Valley State University, Zahnow Library. Accessed: 2 April 2006 Ramet, Carlos. Ken Follett: The Transformation of a Writer. 1999. Turner, Richard C. Ken Follett: A Critical Companion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

When The Pillars of the Earth hit bookstores in September of 1989, it was preceded by the full force of Follett's reputation as a bestseller hit-maker and a giant advertising budget from MacMillan. Add to this buzz created by the publisher that Pillars was a complete departure from Follett's previous work and his "grandest novel," and it's clear why widespread reviews (from the New York Times, to Cosmopolitan to Modern Maturity to The Times London) ran before and during the month it was released, and dozens more in the months following (Publisher's Cover). While the book was a popular success, however, critics heavily criticized the book. Reviewers widely noted that Pillars was in fact a distinct departure from Follett's usual suspense novels, although they did not agree on whether that departure yielded good or bad results. Some of the book's strongest critics included Wall Street Journal's Lee Lescaze (who reviewed the book in August, 1989), and says, "Although Ken Follett's new novel is a chore to read, it is easy for a reviewer to put down. Throw the book anywhere (being careful to see that pets and small children who might be crushed by its bulk are out of the way) and it likely will fall open to a quotable passage. It is a cornucopia of banality" (A14). The Washington Post's Gary Jennings says, "The legions of fanciers of Ken Follett's spy novels will likely be dismayed by his having turned now to historical fiction?[The Pillars of the Earth] is an inert pudding of slipshod research and slovenly writing" (M8).

While these voices were among the harshest, they were by no means alone. Reviewers critiqued the slow pace of Follett's novel, its significant length, the (lack of ) development of its characters, the use of flashbacks, and its use of twentieth-century language in a twelfth-century setting. "Follett is well known for his suspense thrillers, and much of the advance publicity touts ?The Pillars of the Earth' as being his masterpiece. Unfortunately, it reads more like a bad romance novel" (Johnson 4). "The book outlasts the fun," says Cecelia Holland for the New York Times Book Review, "Follett's story develops cracks, and chunks of it fall into the crypt" (41). Other reviewers agree: The "plot is less tightly controlled than those in Follett's contemporary works?much of the language as well as the psychology of the characters and their relationships remains firmly rooted in the 20th century" (Whealler 108); "the author's ear for language is as indiscriminate as his way with characters" (Holland 41); and "From its ungodly conception (arson plays a role) to completion, the construction of the cathedral encompasses every variety of melodramatic conceit" (Madrigal 3). Multiple reviewers point out what they see as the real aim of Follett's writing: "Commercial fiction at its most commercial" (Madrigal 3)? "not literature. It's part-soap opera, part-melodrama, part-western, part-thriller and part-educational television" (Reardon 7).

What reviewers do concede is that the Follett can successfully tell a story. Holland labels Follett a "wonderful storyteller" and says that "The vigor and intensity of the first half of the book may bring "The Pillars of the Earth" popular success" (Holland). "Follett is adept at setting a scene, peopling it with interesting characters and describing the ensuing events with clarity and force" (Reardon 7) and "Most of the time?Follett describes the goings-on in lively fashion" (Novak 35). While critics were for the most part disappointed in The Pillars of the Earth, there were a few who found more to like in the book. Publisher's Weekly says Follett "risks all and comes out a clear winner" (86), and Barbara Erskine of the London Times argues, "This book evokes its period brilliantly and the details about the building methods of the time which were obviously researched in great depth are inserted with a light hand" (41). Algis Budrys of the Chicago Sun-Times goes as far as to say the novel is "as fine a panoramic historical novel as I've read in years. ?Follett's technical achievement is nothing less than wonderful" (14). Reardon says that despite his expectations, the book "isn't dreadful or dreary or woeful. It's a fast-paced, engaging entertainment?an enjoyable story, well told" (Reardon). However, most reviewers, even those who have both praise and criticism for Follett's book come closer to the lukewarm, "Those who like a big book?this one's nearly 1,000 pages crammed with sex, action, religion, a course on medieval architecture and not too many surprises?could do worse than "The Pillars of the Earth" (Madrigal 3). Budrys, Algis. "Follett reaches for glory with ?The Pillars of the Earth.'" Chicago Sun-Times 20 Aug. 1989: 14. Cover. Publisher's Weekly 235: 20 (19 May 1989). Erskine, Barbara. "Gothic Horror Show." London Times (22 Oct. 1989). Holland, Cecelia. "Spire Thriller." The New York Times Book Review. 94 (10 Sept. 1989): 41, col. 1. Jennings, Gary. "Blood, Loins and Lump of History" Washington Post, Aug. 20 1989, p. M8. Johnson, Mary Ellen. " Follett stumbles in attempt to mix history and romance." Colorado Springs Gazette (1 October 1989): 4. Lescaze, Lee. "Hot and Bothered, Long Ago." Wall Street Journal. (29 Aug. 1989): A14. Madrigal, Alix. Rev. of The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. San Francisco Chronicle. (10 Sept. 1989): 3. Novak, Ralph. Rev. of The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. People Weekly. 32:12 (18 Sept. 1989): 35. Reardon, Patrick. "Follett's Thriller Skills Adapt Well to History." Chicago Tribune. (10 Sept. 1989): 7. Rev. of The Pillars of the Earth. by Ken Follett. Publisher's Weekly 235: 26 (Jun 30, 1989): 86. Whealler, Cynthia Johnson. Rev. of The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Library Journal 14:12 (July 1989): 108.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Since 1994, response to Follett's The Pillars of the Earth has pointed out three major things about the book: Pillars is a great departure from and a turning point in Follett's largely spy and suspense-filled career, the novel has found incredible sustained success, particularly in European countries, and the book has been frequently banned since its publication. The Pillars of the Earth has received perhaps the greatest accolades in Germany, where in 2004 the book was voted the number three best-loved book of all time, just behind The Bible and Lord of the Rings (Williams). In the U.S., Pillars saw controversy throughout the 1990s and was on the list of the 100 most challenged books for that decade (ALA). The Pillars of the Earth was also at the center of a large controversy over book banning in the Fairfax County, Virginia school district in 2001 (Honawar B01). While media discussion of The Pillars of the Earth has largely been news-related, there has also been some discussion of Follett and his novels in the academic realm of popular culture studies. Carlos Ramet has been the major writer to address Follett's books; his research led to the founding of the Ken Follett collection at his home university of Saginaw Valley State University. Ramet penned the 1996 article "The Architecture of the Novel," which appeared in the Popular Culture Review and was later published as a chapter in his book Ken Follett: The Transformation of a Writer. Ramet sees Follett as "both inheritor and amender of certain popular tradition," and argues the "tension between the popular and serious underlies much of Follett's work" (Ramet). In looking at Pillars specifically, he examines the book's structure, arguing that "Architecture? becomes a central metaphor for the text and a way to understand Follett's working methods and the philosophy behind his art" (Ramet). "Follett's?move from the purity of the thriller form to the massiveness of the historical novel has resulted in a work with the flying buttresses equally exposed?five long sections, a 50-page addendum and the Crisis closer to the apex of the pyramid" (Ramet). Follett's work received further critical treatment in one book of the Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers series from Greenwood Press (Turner). The author, Richard C. Turner, says that writing "a critical treatment of a popular novelist such as Ken Follett offers?an opportunity to test many of the claims made for literary criticism against the habits and received attitudes of the academy." His treatment of The Pillars of the Earth pairs it with another of Follett's novels, A Dangerous Fortune and calls both "sagas" that offer "a look at a complex historical moment by focusing on a family and the ways its own history reflects and is shaped by the events and forces occurring around it" (Turner). He further breaks down his fairly basic analysis into sections including point of view, character development, plot development, and thematic issues, and also offers a explanation of how a Marxist approach to the novel might be done, saying the story "depicts the historical and material forces that changed the medieval world and the origins of the struggle between the classes that would lead to modern society" (Turner). While the critical analysis of Follett's work is so far limited, a search for The Pillars of the Earth in contemporary news media yields results even in 2006?the title is nearly always mentioned if Follett is releasing a new book or has a speaking engagement, it is also a frequently named "favorite" book of politicians, athletes, and other interviewees. "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000." American Library Association. Chicago, ALA. 12 Apr. 2006 Honawar, Vaishali. "Brouhaha on books continues in Fairfax." Washington Times. (26 Apr. 2002): B01. Ramet, Carlos. Ken Follett: The Transformation of a Writer. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999. Turner, Richard C. Ken Follett: A Critical Companion. (Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers, Kathleen Gregory Klein, series ed.) Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. Williams, Tryst. "Follett Writes the Third Best Book of All Time." The Western Mail. (5 Oct. 2004).

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

"The big news in the 1980s wasn't the books, it was the book business," quips Michael Korda, author of Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller (166). At first glance, much of Ken Follett's repeated success in making the list, including his success with The Pillars of the Earth, largely relates to his prowess in business and his savvy in cranking out bestsellers one after another. While the Follett name (he had already had bestsellers on the annual list in 1978, '79, '80, '82, '83, and '86) and a climate in which blockbuster bestsellers were the primary product of the publishing business were key factors in the selling success of The Pillars of the Earth, there is more to the story. Pillars was a departure for Follett and his publisher both in its substantial (973-page) length and in genre, and in many ways was a marketing risk. The risk paid off?the book sold well initially, but has also continued to sell steadily in subsequent years, gaining an almost cult-like following. In fact, Follett will release the sequel to Pillars in 2007, eighteen years after the original book was published. While The Pillars of the Earth is in some ways the prototypical 1980s bestseller, it is the unique attributes in its recipe for success that make it an interesting case to look at in the context of big-business publishing and bestsellers.

Ken Follett freely admits that he views himself as a craftsman rather than an artist (Hauptfuhrer 108). His goal since early in his career has been to make money, and he has been strategic in his ability to respond to market forces and produce hits (Turner 1; Ramet 5-6). Several events set the stage for Follett's decision to write and publish The Pillars of the Earth. In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union, and from that point on the Cold War moved quickly to its end, leading to the toppling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and 1990 and the fall of Communism in Russia in 1991. In 1983, The Name of the Rose, a sprawling medieval mystery by Umberto Eco, made a splash with high sales and landed on the annual bestseller list, proving that novels about the Middle Ages could make big bucks. In 1986, twenty years after first sketching out the idea for Pillars, Ken Follett "again tackled on outline for the cathedral novel"; the book was released in 1989 and instantly became a bestseller (Steinberg 38). The time was right for Pillars in part because the spy thriller genre Follet had been known for was losing steam as Cold War relations between East and West warmed considerably in the late to mid 1980s. Follett may have sensed that the time was right to push his writing in a different direction, and he had been interested in and researching cathedrals since the mid-1970s. Though he didn't feel ready to write a cathedral novel at that time, Eco's novel proved that though past wisdom held "you can't sell novels about the Middle Ages. ?Along came The Name of the Rose, which toppled that theory on its ear," as Follett noted in a Publisher's Weekly interview in 1989 (Steinberg 38). Follett's astute timing with The Pillars of the Earth meant that his U.S. publisher, Morrow, was willing to take on such a risky departure from his normal fare. To ensure that Follett would retain his primary male audience while also gaining historical fiction readers (who tend to be largely female), Morrow hired the market research firm Dataplan to "help the book achieve its full potential" (Steinberg 38). The firm conducted focus-group interviews, mail interviews, and telephone surveys. The research resulted in changes in title (which had been pitched as Allegiance) and cover design, and the creation of "an elaborate press kit done in die-cut gold" (Steinberg 38). The plans worked, and Pillars became Follett's best seller, reaching number 1 on the bestseller list soon after its release, and ranking at number 8 on the annual list.

The Pillars of the Earth is nearly a thousand pages long, focuses on the building of a cathedral, and encompasses historical events such as the sinking of the White Ship (on which drowned the only legitimate heir of King Henry I of England), and the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Yet it managed to capture the interest and purchasing power of hundreds of thousands of Follett's spy thriller devotees and to recruit legions of new fans. That feat begs the question: How did Follett manage this accomplishment? While part of the book's success undeniably came from savvy marketing and careful timing, it seems reasonable to contend that elements of the book itself played a role in its accessibility and popularity among a wide audience. Patrick Reardon of the Chicago Tribune argues that in The Pillars of the Earth, Follett actually creates a new hybrid genre that hadn't previously been seen in this form: the historical thriller (7). Follett had been lauded in his past writing for "impeccable timing and dramatic momentum?.[and] his ability to tell a many-faceted story" (Steinberg 39). Other hallmarks of his spy thrillers have been "strong, believably drawn female characters; the blending-in of love story elements and a general optimism towards romance" and "[not being] ashamed to use all the traditional thriller devices of entertainment to serious ends?ideas about war, love, disappointment and hope" (qtd. in Ramet 3). Though these comments were written about his early spy thrillers, they apply equally to The Pillars of the Earth. Pillars offers as a backdrop mystery and intrigue in the Catholic church of twelfth-century England, but foregrounds the lives and fortunes of individuals: Prior Philip, a kind but ambitious monk who leads the building of the cathedral at Kingbridge; Aliena, a beautiful young gentry woman who refuses to marry a lord; Tom Builder, a stone mason who dreams of building a beautiful cathedral, and the haunting, golden-eyed Ellen who has been accused of being a witch. From the first line ("The small boys came early to the hanging"), it promises action and shock value (Follett 11). It also offers romance and plenty of sex, from the twisted sadist pleasure of Lord William, to the deep affection of Tom and Ellen who come together after the death of Tom's first wife, to tender young love between Aliena and Ellen's son, Jack. It also offers violence via action and adventure, and suspense in a mystery plot that winds its way through the book. It adds to these more typical Follett elements, "[a] thorough grasp of the period of the book's setting and myriad details?from fine points of masonry to broad architectural concepts" (Steinberg 39). Follett populates his novel with real historical figures, sets it in a based-on-real locale in England, and offers carefully researched description of time and place, with information about architecture (that seems technical, but is carefully explained) interwoven. While setting is carefully depicted, Follett retains 20th-century dialogue, as several reviewers lamented when the book came out, including Lee Lescaze of the Wall Street Journal, who says "Mr. Follett seems to have decided that 12th-century Englishmen favored 20th-century cliches (?mindless brute,' ?hot and bothered'), and, while their diction was simple to begin with, they nevertheless took terrible pains to make everything very clear, as though explaining themselves to children" (A14). Though it rankled reviewers, Follett's use of vernacular current to the 1980s may have made the novel more digestible for readers who were novices to the historical fiction genre or who might be daunted by more academic historical fiction or representations. While explanations geared toward children (in Lescaze's opinion) may not make great literature, they arguably do make The Pillars of the Earth a clear and highly accessible read for a wide readership of varying levels of education and literary background. While the setting is the 12th century, readers can feel comfortable in the language and idioms used, relatable characters, while they are simultaneously pulled in and carried along by the fast pace and suspense of the novel.

A well-known author and large marketing budget may have propelled Pillars' initial success, but only grassroots support and love for the book could have sustained its popularity through nearly two decades so far, and led it to be voted among the top 100 books chosen by British readers in the BBC's "The Big Read" in 2003, and the third-most popular book ever in Germany in 2004. One reader wrote on Ciao! (an like bookselling web site in the UK), "Why have I chosen to read this epic work of fiction more than once? The simplest answer is because ?Pillars' is a marvellous and memorable story that improves with the telling. Interwoven within the narrative detailing episodes in the lives of Royalty [sic], nobility, clergy and common folk is a true sense of history, the reader becomes deeply involved in the lives and events created by Follett" ( A reviewer on describes how The Pillars of the Earth won her over, "I've never been a fan of Follett, and picked this book up with some misgivings--anyone these days can try to do an ?historical' novel with some quick sex, some fake archaic new-speak, and a TV-movie-miniseries concept of history. While there are some minor flaws in this book, its sweep, characterization, tensions, and love of its subject are simply riveting. I could not put the darned thing down and have lost sleep for a week compulsively page-turning. Follett, unbelievably, seems to have made little splash with this book when it first came out--more shame to the critics who missed a ?Gone with the Wind' from a conventional thriller author." Another reviewer (writing from Argentina) says, "After sixty years of people asking me what my favorite book is, I finally know: Ken Follett's ?The Pillars of the Earth.' It can only be compared to Tolstoi's ?War & Peace' in scope, and in social and historical authenticity. However, it also sustains over nearly a thousand pages the most nerve-wracking suspense I've ever experienced in a novel or movie, and the characters live as no others that come to mind, including those in all the other great novels of literature."

These layman reviews point out that Follett's novel manages to do two things well simultaneously that might initially seem to be at odds with one another. Pillars is a novel on an epic scale that feels authentic, intellectual, and "smart" due to its connections to nonfiction history. However, it also manages to maintain a relatively easy reading level, and incorporate the most successful attributes of popular fiction, including romance and sex, action, a fast pace, snappy dialogue, edge-of-the-seat suspense, and memorable, appealing characters. Rather than feeling talked down to (as Lescaze asserts), readers feel included, as if Follett is letting them in on an epic story and raising their consciousness toward a formerly intimidating and erudite time and topic.

At first glance, The Pillars of the Earth appears to fit the mold of the typical 1980s bestseller: a big-name author, large marketing budget, national advertising campaign, and celebrity-type appearances leading to huge initial sales. However, the book is a departure from Follett's regular fare and is a whopping, 973-page cathedral story set in the Middle Ages?not the typical Follett bestseller, but a risk that somehow paid off. Rather than fading away after its hyped-up release, the book has proven its staying power, steadily gaining popularity among fans and new readers. This seems to be due to the book's accessible but historically grounded writing, a combination of a "smart" topic with an easily digestible form, and a relatability that means readers remember the book and its characters long after they have finished the last page. Follett's careful timing of the book's publication and his extensive research and passion for the subject may have also enhanced its appeal. While Ken Follett and The Pillars of the Earth will most likely be considered in academic circles (if considered at all) as an example of the late century blockbuster publishing era, it seems that the book that may continue to live on in a different way through fans who have embraced its epic scale and accessibility to all types of readers.

Works Cited: Follett, Ken. The Pillars of the Earth. New York: Signet, 1989. Hauptfuhrer, Fred. "Out of the Pages." People Weekly. 25 September 1978, 108. Korda, Michael. Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1990-1999. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2001. Lescaze, Lee. "Hot and Bothered, Long Ago." Wall Street Journal. (29 Aug. 1989): A14. Ramet, Carlos. Ken Follett: The Transformation of a Writer. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999. Reardon, Patrick. "Follett's Thriller Skills Adapt Well to History." Chicago Tribune. (10 Sept. 1989): 7. Steinberg, Sybil. "The ?Pillars' of a New Success from Ken Follett and Morrow." Publisher's Weekly. 21 July 1989, p. 38-39. Turner, Richard C. Ken Follett: A Critical Companion. (Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers, Kathleen Gregory Klein, series ed.) Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

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