Friday, September 03, 2010

Must Watch Friday: Pillars of the Earth

This Friday PHS editor Donna Alward chats about a series she's just finished...even if she broke one of her "rules" in doing so...

I give up.  I have this "rule" that I don't watch a movie or series until I've read the book. The problem is, my reading time seems to get shorter every day and my tbr bigger and sometimes it just doesn't happen.  So I've pretty much discarded that rule. Twilight and Harry Potter excepted - we DID read all of those before watching the movies (and those to come).

I saw the previews to Pillars of the Earth and both the dh and I thought it looked great. We have On Demand (which is the best thing ever, in addition to my dvr) so we've been settling in and watching each episode, wondering how it's going to end.  I suppose if I'd read the book, I'd already know, so there is that. I suspected some parts and was completely wrong on others. And while I felt the last few episodes wound things up too quickly, it was quite entertaining.

 And a friend did lend me the book which is ginormous. She is frustrated with the series as she says they changed a lot from the book - although some of the things she mentioned I would consider small depends on how invested you are in the book, I think. The more invested the more faithful you would want an adaptation to be. On the other hand, someone else told me that they thought it followed the book pretty well.  It's all in the perspective.

There are several plots running together, but the focal point is the building of the Knightsbridge Cathedral and the jostling for political power between Maude and Stephen for the crown. Actually - not just Maude and Stephen but also, and perhaps even more strongly, the power of the Church. All this back and forth of power means the cathedral is on again and off again, and at the crux of it is a secret that started the whole thing - the death of the heir on a ship years earlier. There's love and violence and good and's been great to watch. In the end the secret of that death is revealed...and justice is served.

The cast is large and distinguished: Rufus Sewell, Donald Sutherland, Eddie Redmayne, Ian McShane, Matthew McFadyen, Sarah Parish, Gordon Pinsent to name a few (and I love how there are a few Canadians on that list).

For the most part I'm enjoying the casting.  I didn't expect to like Eddie Redmayne as Jack but I do.  I hated him as Angel Clare in Tess.  I really did.  I never quite believed in that pairing - Redmayne and Gemma Atherton.  But I like him as Jack.  It's in the eyes.  He can speak with his eyes and I dig that.  I got over the boyisih looks and was actually quite struck by him in the last few scenes when he is older - the facial hair worked wonders, lol! Ian McShane is Waleran, the Bishop You Love To Hate - evil and slippery.  David Oakes' William Hamleigh is horrid (in a good way).  I believe a few episodes ago I said to the husband, "That %$(#%%$* has to die." Hayley Atwell is terrific as Aliena - spirited and likeable.

The only casting I didn't like was Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder, the Master Builder of the Cathedral.  Tom is not nobility.  He is a labourer, albeit a talented one. But he is a scene stealer. I never quite buy into it because he carries himself like nobility.  He has such presence that he is larger than life - which is great for many roles but I don't think this one. He exudes more power than he should and tends to overshadow some of the other roles. Don't get me wrong - I really like Sewell - but as Tom, I think he was miscast.

As the final credits rolled, I remarked to my husband how much research had to be involved with writing a book like that. And any time I watch/read something that makes me proud and inspired as a writer is a good thing!

Warm and fuzzy?  Not so much.  But an enjoyable 8 of 10 hearts anyway.

Donna's newest release is available online now!  PROUD RANCHER, PRECIOUS BUNDLE is available from Mills and Boon both in e-book and in print and will be available in UK stores in October. Look for it in North America in February.


  1. I thought why have I missed this? Then I checked. It has been shown in Canada and the US but not so far in the UK. I shall look forward to seeing it.

  2. I read Pillars of the Earth years ago. It's much sneered at by medievalists (of course) but actually I thought it was a great page turner. Ken Follett certainly did a lot of research into medieval engineering - the sequel is about building a bridge, if I remember rightly. Interesting to read your post, but not sure if I'd want to see it on the screen. I'm so often disappointed when favourite books get made into films and would rather keep them in my head.

  3. Interesting, Jessica. I ADORE adaptations, and usually like them, but every now and again I just think that they got it WRONG. I did feel that way about the latest version of Tess.

    Sometimes watching the movie prompts me to read the book, too.