Bookworms, let’s talk. You know how when you were in middle school you would occasionally tire of age appropriate fare and steal things from your parents’ bookshelves? No? I find that hard to believe. While you’re coming to terms with honesty, I’m going to tell you a story.
When I was in middle school I met my BFF. She’s my best friend to this day, so it’s not weird AT ALL that we refer to each other as “besties” or “BFF.” We’re entitled, we’ve put in the years, yo. Anyway. When I was in middle school, our language arts teachers encouraged us to read outside of assignments… By “encouraged,” I really mean “required,” but it was so much more fun than algebra I didn’t mind in the slightest. Anyhoodle, my BFF started reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It is a fabulous book, but WILDLY inappropriate for 12-year-old girls. Really though, 12 is about the age you get away with reading Forever because it’s Judy Blume and your mom doesn’t realize it’s about S-E-X. So. No harm done. After several giggly slumber parties spent reading the scandalous bits of The Pillars of the Earth, my BFF finished the book and we continued on with our glittery eyelidded, lip smackery adolescence.
Then came Oprah. Oprah added Pillars of the Earth to her book club in 2007, and I found it in my mom’s stack of books (a double copy, no less! Read more about my mom’s incessant double purchasing HERE.) It all came flooding back. The middle school scandal… My BFF’s assurance there was a great story underneath the smut… I’d discovered my love of historical fiction by this time, so I snagged Mom’s spare copy (and a few others) and was on my way.
The Pillars of The Earth takes place in the middle ages from 1123-1174. This book predates even the bubonic plague- it’s SUPER old school! The story is centered around the building of a cathedral in England and all the folks involved in the building, the town, the government, the clergy, and the scandal. It’s actually kind of rare to find a lot of historical fiction about “normal” people. It’s a lot more appealing to a mass audience to incorporate major historical figures into their fiction to grab a little extra recognition. (Note the PLETHORA of historical fiction starring the Tudors and Renaissance Florence…) Name recognition aside, life for the rank and file was pretty stinky, dirty, and hungry. However, I happen to want to know what it would have been like for ME to live way back when.
Let’s face it, my current existence is not that of a high society lady. I have to scrub my own toilets and save up for things I want. I shop at Wal-Mart. So… If I were living in the 1100s, I would have been living in a one room hut snuggling the family sheep for warmth. Appealing, no? Whatever, the grit is where it’s at!
The Pillars of the Earth is way too long to give a play by play, but I will tell you it’s a whole lot of awesome. I highly recommend it to any historical fiction buffs out there! There is also a “sequel” which is amazing as well called World Without End but since it’s set a full 200 years after the end of Pillars of the Earth you won’t miss anything by only reading one or the other.
So, Bookworms, what do you think YOUR life would have been like “once upon a time”? Do you like to imagine yourself as old school royalty, or do you prefer to indulge in the lives of the regular folk? Tell me about it!