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Pillars of the Earth
March 4, 2013
2:34 pm
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black_mamba
Texas, USA
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I thought this was a really good series. I watched it when it first came on, and I just re-watched it on Encore yesterday. Let me give you a summary of it:
Plot summary

After the sinking of the White Ship. King Henry I of England is left without a clear heir, and The Anarchy begins upon his death. Two candidates (Henry’s nephew Stephen of Blois and Henry’s daughter Maud) present their claims, build their armies, and fight for the throne. Ambitious nobles and churchmen take sides, hoping to gain advantages.

Tom Builder and his family roam southern England, seeking work. In midwinter, his starving wife, Agnes, dies in childbirth. He encounters a woman Ellen, who lives in a forest cave with her son, Jack. (Jack’s father was a French jongleur who was executed after washing ashore and meeting Ellen.) Tom settles in Kingsbridge with Ellen and Jack, and his own two children. He works for Prior Philip, who wants to expand his priory by rebuilding a cathedral. Conveniently, the old Romanesque cathedral burns down the night Tom arrives, and none suspect foul play. Tom offers to build a new church and Phillip agrees.

Philip appeals to King Stephen for financial support and is given land and the right to take stone from a nearby quarry, which has been granted to Percy Hamleigh as part of the earldom of Shiring. Percy’s interests are not in supporting the cathedral. Hamleigh wants to topple the earl Bartholomew because Bartholomew’s daughter, Aliena, had rejected Hamleigh’s son William. William attacks Aliena and her brother Richard at the castle; he rapes the girl and injures the boy. Homeless and destitute, Aliena and Richard go to petition the king for aid; at the court, they find their dying father Bartholomew in prison, who demands they swear an oath to work for Richard to regain the earldom. Aliena supports Richard financially by becoming a wool merchant, with Phillip’s help. Richard becomes a knight for King Stephen, fighting in the civil war against Maud. Richard gains the king’s favour by defending him at the Battle of Lincoln.

Tom, meanwhile, has been building the cathedral, and living with his children, Alfred and Martha, his lover Ellen and her son Jack. Alfred bullies Jack. When Ellen and Tom are discovered to be unmarried, a charge of fornication is brought against them. Outraged, Ellen returns to the forest with Jack. Tom befriends Prior Philip and, when Ellen returns, he persuades Philip to allow them to marry. As masons, Jack and Alfred fight again. While the better mason and a skilled sculptor, Jack is expelled from the cathedral construction. He becomes a novice monk in order to stay in Kingsbridge.

William and Richard compete for the earldom, but it has been bankrupted by the prosperity of Kingsbridge at Shiring’s expense. Attempting to restore his fortunes, William burns down Kingsbridge and kills many people, including Tom Builder. After losing her fortune again, Aliena agrees to marry Alfred, as he promised to support Richard in exchange. Jack and Aliena make love on the morning of her wedding. When she marries Alfred anyway, Ellen curses the wedding and renders him impotent.

Jack goes to France and hones his skills as a sculptor and mason. Having learned his father’s identity, he meets his family in Cherbourg. He did not know that Aliena was pregnant.

In Kingsbridge, Alfred persuades Philip to replace the wooden roof with a stone vault. The building collapses during a service, killing many people. Aliena gives birth to a red-headed son, and Alfred abandons her, as he has been impotent: the baby can’t be his.

Jack and Aliena return to England with their baby and they seek permission to marry. Philip forbids the union until her marriage to Alfred is annulled. This requires Waleran Bigod’s recommendation to the archibishop, but Bigod and the Hamleighs are allies, and they intend to ruin Philip and Aliena.

Meanwhile, Richard has joined the forces of Maud’s son, Henry, Count of Anjou. (The future Henry II) When Henry invades, Stephen agrees to have Henry succeed him, with all properties to revert to those who had owned them prior to Stephen’s reign. Frustrated that Richard will not gain the earldom until Stephen’s death, Aliena persuades William’s young wife, Elizabeth, to hand the castle over to them. William returns to the village of Hamleigh as sheriff.

After many years, Kingsbridge cathedral is completed. Waleran accuses Prior Philip of fornication by claiming the monk Jonathan is Philip’s son. Ellen swears that Jonathan is Tom Builder’s son. After Waleran accuses her of perjury, she exposes his complicity in a conspiracy to sink the White Ship carrying William Adelin, heir of King Henry I.

Meanwhile, William Hamleigh has become involved with the plot to assassinate Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. William is convicted and hanged for his part. The Pope forces King Henry’s public repentance and symbolic subjugation of the crown to the church.

Good series, and I’ve heard the book is also very good. It talks about a period of history that doesn’t really get talked about. The whole thing about the White Ship (Check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Ship) was VERY interesting. And Maud was one of my favorite characters. She was very strong and she fought hard for her son’s right to rule.

At times I almost dream, I too have spent a life the sages' way,
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
Ages ago; and in that act, a prayer For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by death, That life was blotted out—not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it remain Dim memories as now, when once more seems The goal in sight again. -- Robert Browning, Paracelsus

March 4, 2013
6:31 pm
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Sharon
Binghamton, NY
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I recently finished Lady of the English, by Elizabeth Chadwick. If you enjoy this piece of history, I think you would like it. It is about Maud, Stephen, Henry I and II. Another one of hers which follows these characters from a different angle is A Place Beyond Courage. I am in the middle of that one now and it deals with John FitzGilbert, the Marshal and his son William Marshal as a child. If you enjoy reading about Maud you will love these two books.
I have not read Pillars of the Earth and only watched a bit of the series. I intend to read all three books eventually.

March 4, 2013
11:18 pm
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black_mamba
Texas, USA
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Thanks, I’ll try and check these books out! I’ve always really liked Maud’s story, fighting for her son’s right to rule. I also find it interesting that Maud, was the mother of Henry II and Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, a very strong willed woman also. Don’t they say “Men marry women like their mothers” ? Wink

At times I almost dream, I too have spent a life the sages' way,
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
Ages ago; and in that act, a prayer For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by death, That life was blotted out—not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it remain Dim memories as now, when once more seems The goal in sight again. -- Robert Browning, Paracelsus

March 5, 2013
1:57 am
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Anyanka
La Belle Province
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I read the book before Christmas..I’ll look out for the series though.

It's always bunnies.

March 5, 2013
3:08 pm
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DuchessofBrittany
Canada
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I agree with Sharon. Check out Elizabeth Chadwick’s books, especially Lady of the English. It’s one of her best. I have not yet read A Place Beyond Courage, but it’s on my to-read list. I loved the novel Pillars of the Earth. It’s a long read, but I found the characters interesting, and the story rooted in history. I did watch the mini-series and thought it was okay. I really watched it for Rufus Sewell, so who am I kidding?!

"By daily proof you shall find me to be to you both loving and kind" Anne Boleyn

March 5, 2013
6:56 pm
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Sharon
Binghamton, NY
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I thought of another book written by Sharon Kay Penman called, When Christ and His Saints Slept. This is a very thorough book which starts with the sinking of the White Ship. An excellent read.
Finished A Place Beyond Courage. Duchess, you will like this one. Those Marshal men and their women were something else.

March 6, 2013
5:37 pm
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DuchessofBrittany
Canada
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Sharon said

I thought of another book written by Sharon Kay Penman called, When Christ and His Saints Slept. This is a very thorough book which starts with the sinking of the White Ship. An excellent read.
Finished A Place Beyond Courage. Duchess, you will like this one. Those Marshal men and their women were something else.

Sharon,
I shall check this book out! I am not ashamed to admit it, but I have such a crush on William Marshal…if only all men were like him!Wink

"By daily proof you shall find me to be to you both loving and kind" Anne Boleyn

March 7, 2013
2:34 pm
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black_mamba
Texas, USA
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I will definitely be checking out these books! Thanks!

At times I almost dream, I too have spent a life the sages' way,
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
Ages ago; and in that act, a prayer For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by death, That life was blotted out—not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it remain Dim memories as now, when once more seems The goal in sight again. -- Robert Browning, Paracelsus

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