The Pillars of the Earth is a good old fashioned historical melodrama set in Britain during the troubled period during the reigns of King Stephen and King Henry II. The central theme involves the prior of Kingsbridge priory who is determined to build a Cathedral despite many obstacles placed in his way by baddies both within and without the church. It is an old fashioned tale in the sense that the good guys are throughly good and the bad guys are thoroughly bad but it is a rich story none the less with many layers that gives a great flavour of the times. Several well known characters put in an appearance including the various Kings and Archbishop Thomas Beckett but I suspect that the author has used poetic license in interpreting the historical record.
Pillars of the Earth was published in 1989 and was a best seller at the time spawning a television adaptation and a sequel. I certainly enjoyed reading it, particularly the historical flavour. One word of warning: the book contains several graphically depicted rape scenes which I found unpleasant to read. They do more or less fit in with the plot but for some folks (my wife for example) this would be a deal breaker.