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Cathedral of the Sea Paperback – 26 Mar 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (26 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552773972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552773973
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 4.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Sculpted and fluid... the international bestseller appears now in an impressively graceful translation which captures beautifully the archaic and lyrical tone of the narrative... Its beauty lies in its vivd exposition of the complexities of a bygone society" (Independent on Sunday)

"Falcones's intricately plotted novel rests on meticulous research... the ambitious yarn binds you into its thrall - a bold work of imagination, which pays homage to lives gone by as well as to the great church itself" (Daily Express)

"Turns on legal and financial manoeuvres rarely found in a historical novel. Passionate in explaning 14th century Barcelona, [Falcones] draws convincing pictures of its architecture and culture, right down to the basics such as the sewage stream... an exciting, very readable adventure novel, enriched by realistic descriptions of medieval life, work, finance and politics" (Independent)

"A powerful historical saga set in 14th century Barcelona that spans slavery, serfdom and anti-Semitism, friendship and thwarted love" (Choice (Book of the Month))

Review

The international bestseller...now in an impressively graceful translation which captures beautifully the archaic and lyrical tone of the narrative.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By BookAddictUK VINE VOICE on 20 Jan 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

There are lots of good things about Cathedral of the Sea: It's engaging, but not engrossing, readable and atmospheric, creating a sense of medieval Spain, and Barcelona in particular, with the first few chapters, a sense which is sustained to final page. But there are lots of bad things about this book too which, for me, detracted so much from the reading experience as to undermine the whole.

The narrative is plot driven, relating the life story of Arnau, son of a runaway serf made good, but the detailed descriptions of battles in particular and the lecture-like accounts of Spanish histories which pepper the novel are so turgid that the plot falls flat at times. Most of the characters are so under-developed that at times it is hard to understand their motivations or emotions, and Arnau, the central character, who is likeable enough, seems to suffer from having things done to him rather than having any sense of taking control, or responsibility, for his own life: strange in one who's professed desires include freedom and justice. While the author is at pains to display his intimate knowledge of medieval Barcelona, he seems to know very little of ways in which the renaissance, the reformation or industrialisation have changed the human psyche. Thus, we seem to have a series of characters who, with the exception of Arnau, seem more like 21st century inhabiting a time past, rather than being part of the fabric of their context.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Philip Hurst VINE VOICE on 4 Jun 2008
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book on the recommendation of an eager bookshop salesman. I knew it had sold millions of copies in Spain and Italy, and the bookstore in Rome's main railway station is pushing it (in both Italian and English). It is, alas, a novel written by a Catalan lawyer in his spare time, and it reads like it. The prose is pedestrian throughout, with almost no variation in tone; there is little if any character development, and the narrative is of the "A did X, B thought Y, they stared at each other, then were friends for 50 years" school. Wholly without literary imagination. The "story" (details of which you can see in many other reviews) is interesting enough to keep one's attention, but only just. Some of it is simply naive good v. evil stuff; in what seems to be an imposition of 21st Century political correctness on mediaeval Barcelona, one of the most important characters is a Moorish slave of surpassing virtue and generosity, likewise the Jewish characters are entirely sympathetic, treated as paragons. While one can applaud the effort to present Moors and Jews positively for a change, the presentation is so simplistic and kack-handed here that one is immediately aware of what the author is doing with them. Like other reviewers, I had to make several attempts to finish the book. There is a plethora of historical "detail" but I found myself just skimming this, presented as it is in laundry-list fashion. In an effort to achieve verisimilitude, Falcones inserts into the narrative long lists of names of knights or barons of mediaeval Catalonia, never to be mentioned again. He says in his Afterword that the broad historical events (not the details of Arnau's life) are based on chronicles of the time, which presumably were his source for the roll-call of princes, barons etc.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By L. Hutchinson VINE VOICE on 30 Mar 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel is an enjoyable read. A pleasant epic that quickly sets you into the mood of medieval Spain, and a leisurely setting up of what is to follow but it is well woven into the plot that by the end of the third chapter you are well under way. The historical setting is laid out beautifully, from the geography to the political infrastructure and the way this is conveyed is truly awe-inspiring. Yet, the story is bleak. It begins somewhat depressingly and throughout the story just as there appears to be some good fortune for the main character all is conspired against him. The medieval setting is described throughout wonderfully but due to the political infrastructure demonstrated throughout, things can only get worse.

It may sound somewhat pompous but I mean it when I say that this novel is multi-layered. The main character, Arnau, is us the modern reader. His attitudes and aspirations are a wonderful mixture of liberalism, Marxism and post-modernism. Something of a rich mixture but all that makes sense within the realm of the book. His attitude toward the nobles, certainly from my point-of-view is Marxist. Bourgeoisie and proletarian: the main narrative of the story is the idea of the working class ridding their shackles of their "Noble" masters. Furthermore, Arnau's rise in power via his own choice is post-modern: he chooses his identity. He is the individual that we are supposed to aspire to be.
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