I recently finished reading Ken Follett's book, The Pillars of the Earth. This is a book that has been on my read list for years, but with the second volume completed by Follett in 2007, I decided now is the time.
It is a huge book --- 983 pages. But despite its size, I could not put it down. It made great reading following Christmas while Nancy and the girls were in North Carolina. There were many nights when I did not want to go to bed!
If you have read other works by Follett (Eye of the Needle, The Man From St Petersburg, On Wings of Eagles) you might be surprised by Pillars. It is not a "thriller" like many of his other works. Instead it is historical fiction, set in 12th Century England. It really is the story of the relationship between the Church (Roman Catholic) and the state. Ken Follett says the story is about building a church --- but I think that is just the location for all that takes place between the clerics and the royal officials.
The story revolves around a ambitious young man who rises to the role of Prior of Kingsbridge. Prior Phillip seems to really care about the people in his parish (unlike many of the other clerics in the story) and desires to make their life better and fuller. One way to do that is to re-build the church in Kingsbridge. He meets a man (Tom Builder) and his family --- who ultimately becomes the master builder for Phillip. The story covers almost 50 years, so much takes place.
What is fascinating (at least to me) is how the story leads up to the death of Thomas Beckett, which sets the stage for Magna Carta in another 35 years.
Follett weaves a marvelous tale and well worth the time it takes to read it. I am looking forward to reading World Without End, the sequel to Pillars sometime this year.