Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett started out as quite an undertaking. It is almost 1,000 pages, and it took, me almost 300 to really get into the story. Then, I couldn't put it down! I would force myself to put it down to go to bed, and I found myself dreaming about the plot (like when you watch an action movie or drama and then immediately go to bed). There are certainly sections that could be removed. It would be a much better novel at around 600 or 700 pages.
It is set in England in the 1100's. The theme running throughout is the struggle between good and evil, and the plot predictably volleyed from one to the next. Evil would have a taste of victory and then would be overcome by good...over and over again. The characters pretty clearly fall on one side or the other, and you quickly love the ones you are supposed to love and wish death and destruction for those you are supposed to hate. Overall, I enjoyed it. It had just the right amount of suspense mingled with hope.