A seriously good novel. Serious because it clearly was well researched down to most meticulous details. Good because it retains the intimacy of what treads through the human heart. Akka or Acre is under siege by the christian crusaders. On one hand you have the residents of the beleaguered city surviving under harsh conditions. On the other hand you have the European soldiers going through hell in order to break down that wall. I have read many books about the christian crusaders, what is unique about Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson is that it is told through the lives of everyday people. This is not a story about great kings and sultans out-maneuvering each other. This is the story of simple folk struggling to make sense of a grandiose moment in history that was not of their making. I never thought that I would be crying hot tears of agony in sympathy for an English crusader invading Arab land. Yet this book had me wiping away tears for precisely that person. It is written with great compassion for both sides. There are numerous characters in this historical novel, massive historical events unraveling in the background, yet I never felt I was reading an epic. In chapter after chapter I found a vivid portrayal of men and women, their dreams and desires. So intimately rendered. The plot weaves through the fabric of these lives with deftness. At times I felt like an angel floating on a cloud observing both sides serenely, at other times I felt I was right in the mud, in their face, eating dirt with them. Reading this book is an experience.
Several times while reading Pillars of light I found myself reflecting on current world events. How hard is it to do the right thing? How confusing it is to be a human being? How do you decide which side to join? How do you hold on to love when all is lost? And mostly, how strange is the dish destiny serves us?
This is a story for this time. A story of people like you and me my friend.
In short Pillars of Light is an imaginative work of brilliance. I can’t recommend it highly enough.