The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is a hefty tome about the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge in 12th century England. It’s full of lovable and deplorable characters, political intrigue, technical details about medieval construction and just a little bit more sex and sexual violence than was necessary.
West Wales 1843: Daughters of Rebecca are marching, breaking down toll gates that circle Carmarthen. Cantankerous veteran, Thomas Lewis, is tormented by nightmares of the wars against the French in Spain and the Low Countries nearly thirty years earlier. The Welsh countryside is in turmoil; livelihoods destroyed by unfair tithes and taxes. The workhouse provides a starvation diet for the “deserving poor”. The people’s fight for fair-handed justice has begun. In the Newport uprising three years earlier protesters were gaoled, transported and shot by a government afraid Wales might follow the path of revolution, like France. Carpenter’s apprentice, clever but cautious Will, grapples with resentment that he will not inherit the family farm. Will’s jealousy increases when his handsome, radical older brother falls in love with his best friend, Ellen. Could telling Will the story of his campaigns and battles with the 44th East Essex Regiment help Thomas find peace?