The Pillars of the Earth Critical Overview - Essay

Ken Follett

Critical Overview

Although The Pillars of the Earth has become one of Follett’s most popular novels and was voted as one of the United Kingdom’s top 100 books in 2003, not everyone was pleased with it. Some critics found the writing to be less than literary, and others were disappointed by the author’s abrupt change in genre—from thriller to historical fiction. Parents Against Bad Books in Schools (PABBIS), a group that tries to ban books from school libraries around the nation, tried to have it removed from library shelves because of its graphic violence. Some reviewers found the book lacking in accurate historical detail, but Melinda Bargreen, a critic who has degrees in medieval studies, found Follett’s storytelling skill well worth the effort of reading.

The Pillars of the Earth was published in 1989, but Oprah Winfrey breathed new life into the novel when she placed it on her must-read list in 2007. Earlier, in 2003, there were rumors that FX television had bought the much-fought-over rights to produce Pillars as a miniseries. However, Follett claims that there are no plans to do so. Follett has also said that Pillars was his favorite novel to write, although it exhausted his imagination. In an interview with, Follett said that after finishing Pillars, he had no intention of writing a sequel. In fact, “if you had told me then that I would one day have to do it all over again,” Follett said, “I think I might have thrown myself off London Bridge.” However, he did indeed write a sequel, published in 2007 and titled World Without End.