If you liked Pillars of the Earth...
Pillars of the Earth has drawn many new readers to the historical genre, attracted by the author's best-seller status and by word of mouth. The following titles share some of its qualities: the sweep of centuries, a cathedral or medieval setting, the rich depiction of diverse characters in a bygone society.
- Time and Chance by Sharon Penman
Penman writes both medieval mysteries and huge sagas. This is a tale of the young Henry II and his new queen Eleanor of Aquitaine.
- Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
Henry VIII's chief minister sends lawyer Matthew Shardlake to investigate problems at a soon-to-be-dissolved monastery.
- The Unburied by Charles Palliser
Suspense in a Victorian cathedral close, involving a centuries-old murder and an 11th century manuscript.
- The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Edith Pargeter.
The 13th-century British Talvace family of stone carvers strive to build a cathedral for their wealthy benefactor.
- Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd.
Thousands of years in Salisbury, from Stonehenge to cathedral.
- Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett.
This has the rich historical background and cast of characters, though in a slightly later period (England and Scotland at the time of the Tudors). It's also a swashbuckling action novel, which should appeal to fans of Ken Follett's suspense books.
- The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge.
Filled with interesting characters, this plays out in a Victorian cathedral city but tells the story of the cathedral through a series of flashbacks.
- A Distant Mirror: the calamitous 14th century by Barbara Tuchman.
Bestselling historian Tuchman brings to life the century of the Black Plague and the Hundred Years War, and shows how it shared some qualities with another disturbed century, the 20th.
- A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester.
An investigation of the medieval mind and how it both led to, and gave way to, the Renaissance.
- Eleanor of Aquitaine and the four kings by Amy R. Kelly.
A wonderful biography of the famous queen and the period she epitomized. See also Time and Chance above, and The Lion in Winter below.
- The Name of the Rose 1986; based on the book by Umberto Eco.
Sean Connery gives a great performance as a visiting monk trying to solve mysterious deaths at an ancient monastery in the early 14th century.
- The Lion in Winter 1967.
Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn give towering performances as Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine squabbling in their later years over the succession. Makes a good contrast with Time and Chance, above, which shows them as a young couple.
- A Man for All Seasons 1966.
Another great cast shows the struggle between Thomas More and Henry VIII over Henry's demand for a divorce.