Muse's Books (muse_books) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
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Books 50-51: The Pillars of the Earth and True Grit

Both of these reading group selections for May were technically re-reads though in both cases I had read them many years ago. So while I retained some memory of basic plot I found them quite fresh.

Book 50: The Pillars of the Earth.
Author: Ken Follett, 1989.
Genre: Historical Fiction. 12th Century England.
Other Details: Paperback. 1088 pages.

This epic novel is set in the fictional community of Kingsbridge, located in Southwest England, and charts its growth from a village to a city against the backdrop of the period of civil unrest known as 'The Anarchy'. Central to the story is Prior Philip, a devoted monk driven by the desire to build the greatest Gothic cathedral ever seen in England. It is a goal that takes decades to complete with many setbacks.

I remembered that on my first encounter with this doorstop-sized novel back in 1990 while on holiday, that it was so addictive I hardly stirred from my seat until I reached its final page. While this time round I didn't feel quite so compulsive; certainly I found it hard to tear myself away from it. The novel contains all the elements you'd find in an old fashioned saga with baddies who really are extremely wicked and goodies who suffer a lot of hardship at the hands of those same baddies as well as nature in terms of floods, famine and the like..

Throughout I found myself quite caught up in the architectural aspects of the story and this sentiment was echoed by other group members during our discussions.

Ken Follett's page on 'The Pillars of the Earth' - contains background information, character chart, illustrations and excerpts.

Book 51: True Grit.
Author: Charles Portis, 1968.
Genre: Western.
Other Details: Unabridged audiobook. Length: 6 hours, 19 mins. Read by Donna Tartt.

People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day.

So opens this short novel set just after the American Civil War, as its narrator Mattie Ross tells of her quest to avenge her father's murder. When she learns that the man she seeks has joined up with the Lucy Ned Pepper gang, she hires US Marshall Rooster Coogan, by virtue of the fact that the local sheriff describes him as the meanest marshal he knows.

I elected to 're-read' this via its audiobook edition and was glad that I did as Donna Tartt did an excellent job of bringing Mattie Ross' voice vividly to life. Also included was Tartt's Introduction to the 2005 edition in which she talks about the novel's status as a modern classic as well as her own long relationship to it. Just excellent.

The Great, Abiding Pleasure of 'True Grit' - Donna Tartt's Introduction archived in Brick Magazine.
Tags: family saga, historical fiction, modern classic, western
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