A wildly successful novel by Ken Follet, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the people building a fictional cathedral in the 12th century. The book covers roughly two generations, starting with the sinking of the White Ship and ending with Thomas Becket's murder. The vast array of "main" characters include Tom Builder, an out-of-work mason at the beginning of the novel, his apprentice and adopted son Jack, and Prior Phillip, who hires them to rebuild his church after the old one burns down under suspicious circumstances.

This kind of sweeping historical fiction is difficult to pull off, but Follet does it artfully. Published in 1989, he followed it up in 2007 with the vastly inferior World Without End. The novel was also made into a 2010 miniseries that was every bit as expensive as it was mediocre.

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