Seeing as I’ve sought company in my journey with this, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on completion. Prior (Philip.. sniggers) to starting it myself I was reticent. So many people assured me I’d love it. They also followed it up with sentences a bit like this:
“Yeah, it’s long.”
“It’s just about the building of a Cathedral really.”
WHY THE HECK DID THEY THINK I’D LOVE THAT? Have they even met me?
So, I put it off and put it off. But then, for another FOMO reason, I took a step into the historical fiction realm and read a Philippa Gregory book, The Other Boleyn Girl. I really enjoyed it. I thought, OK, maybe it’s time for POTE then. And so I did it.
It didn’t start well (that’s the experience, not the book). I spent 2 weeks struggling to get into it. OK, it started dramatically enough with a hanging, a headless chicken and some witchy cursin’ but after that, it was hard to know where he was going with it and at this point there was only even the vaguest threat of a Cathedral getting built.
But hey, looking back now, A LOT was going on and when I got to 30% (Kindle language) of this book, I was hooked. It so wasn’t just about the building of a cathedral.
Here are the reasons I now believe people love this book:
- In places it’s pretty shocking
Despite being described by some as a bit of a yarn, this book packs some pretty horrific punches. As mentioned it starts with a nasty hanging but there’s worse to come. I was duly warned about one scene with no other info than “you’ll know it when you read it” and yes, I categorically knew it. But there are many, very graphic, very horrible scenes in this book. In novel writing you are told to show, not tell. Ken Follett shows you things you can’t be “unshown”.
- It makes you feel pretty grateful for not being born in the Middle Ages and subsequently just grateful
OK this is fiction, but I’m assuming it’s well-researched to some degree of historical accuracy. Back then, if you lived in England, you could starve, on any given day, randomly have your house burned down or your eyes poked out. A good dinner would be considered something called horse bread dipped in weak beer. (Actually I reckon that’s probably in a Jamie Oliver book somewhere). It basically didn’t seem like any fun AT ALL.
- There’s a pretty satisfying love story in it
This author is pretty amazing in the scope of what he covers and he covers it so well. It actually starts with a bit of a love story which doesn’t end up actually even being the main one. *Whispers: there’s a bonk scene in this that wins all book bonks I reckon. I read that scene thinking – this author IS A MAN! How does … he know? Lucky Mrs Follett I reckon 😉
- It’s a very clever and satisfying plot
I wish someone had described this book to me differently when they mentioned the building of a cathedral. I would have read it a long time ago. Yes, a cathedral gets built but that’s basically just the excuse for the story. It’s about history, politics, love, hate, religion, life, pride, greed, kindness, madness, evil… ALL the things.
- There are some GREAT characters
OK, it’s got a TOTAL, right baddie. Seriously, he is ROTTEN. It’s also got a goodie, who is so good you ALMOST don’t like him for it (makes you feel bad, see). Then it has everything in between. It has girl power in spades. It’s got geniuses. It’s got a few twonks that end up bad simply because they are … I have to say… a bit of a dip sh*t. But even the bland characters have their place.
- It’s historically insightful (I think)
I’ve read a few reviews on this scorning historical inaccuracies. I’m like ..”oh naff off, smug head, YOU write a 1000 page book, THAT’S EXCELLENT then.” I feel like this is in line with what I learnt at school in terms of castles and moats and stuff. No one REALLY knows what went down 1200 years ago anyway, so nur.
- It’s mathematically and technically insightful (I think)
Did I mention that a cathedral gets built in this book? Well it does. And this author knows shizzle about that shizzle. You get naves, buttresses, false work, mortar, vaults…. errr… other .. things like that. It certainly sounds impressive. I still couldn’t go out and build one, but if I had to, I’d want this Follett guy on my team I reckon.
AND FINALLY, and I think this is the big thing.
- It gives you hope that good, ultimately will win out.
This is as relevant today as it was then. OK, POTE ends with optimism that good has ULTIMATELY won, for like…EVER. And we all know that ‘s not how it works out. Today, as then, we have bad guys in power, we have corruption every where. Brute force and playing dirty will still out trump good always in the short term. But here in this book, you get hope. Hope that sometimes in our world it might look like the bad guys are winning but that being good is worth it.
In the end, if the good guys don’t win, no one really wins do they?
Here’s to the good. And a jolly good book.