Bestseller and eternal classic: how Ken Follett defeats Manzoni’s ‘Betrothed’
Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is a real masterpiece. It mixes a breathtaking love story with an accurate historical setting. It pictures the religious life of twelfth-century England as well as the life of criminals and the poor.
It struggles till the last line to represent every face, every colour, every emotion not just of the English people in the Middle Ages, but of all humanity, as those faces, colours, emotions are so universal . At a certain point, the reader may even have the strange feeling of being able to ‘touch’ the characters who Follett describes in every detail, physically as much as psychologically.
The book (1088 well-written pages for a little more than 10€) has been selected by the BBC viewers during the Big Read (UK’s biggest celebration of reading) as one of ‘Britain’s best-loved books’. The Cosmopolitan, the Sunday Times, and the Evening Times to mention just few of them, totally agree in their reviews to define it as a new ‘Classic’. This may sound like a contradiction, using ‘new’ before the word ‘Classic’, but it is not: the author manages to put in his book all the energy and historical features of a famous ‘Classic’ like Manzoni’s Betrothed without making his story less innovative and modern. It may be strange to say at first, but The Pillars of the Earth is an extraordinary great example of a ‘modern classic’.
As said before, Follett uses his pen as a painter uses his brush: he ‘draws’ his long story, and doing so he tries to get a message through to us. What’s this message? It is could be hidden in any page of this epic tale, it could be different from reader to reader. That’s the magic of reading, that’s the magic contained so abundantly in this book.