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Cathedral of the Sea [Paperback]

Ildefonso Falcones
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

26 Mar 2009

A masterful eipc of love, war, treason, plague, famine, witchcraft, anti-Semitism and the Inquisition.

14th-century Spain, the medieval city of Barcelona is enjoying a golden age of prosperity. Its humblest inhabitants are building, stone by stone, a magnificent church to overlook their harbour. This is the Cathedral of the Sea: a church to be built for the people by the people.

In its shadow, Arnau, a young serf on the run from his feudal lord, struggles to earn his freedom. After famine, plague and thwarted love, Arnau's fortunes begin to turn when King Pedro makes him a baron as a reward for his courage in battle. But he is also forced to marry Eleonor, a ward of the King whom he does not love. His newfound status excites jealousy from his friends who plot his downfall with devastating consequences. Arnau's journey from slave to nobleman is the story of a struggle between good and evil that will turn Church against State and brother against brother ...

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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: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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))


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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and bad, but not good enough 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
2.0 out of 5 stars Utter tosh dressed up as "historical" fiction 4 Jun 2008
By Philip Hurst VINE VOICE
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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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping epic of a book 7 April 2008
By Elaine Simpson-long TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have had this book since before Christmas and am kicking myself for not picking it up before but its door stop size and length, over 650 pages, waas somewhat daunting and I had a feeling that once I started this story I would not be able to put it down, so had better have plenty of time to devote to it. I have spent the last two weeks reading it in the evening after work as it it too heavy to cart on my daily commute to London, but in the end I took it with me as I could not leave it behind.

The story is set in 14th century Spain and Bernat and his son Arnau are two serfs on the run from their feudal lord who had stolen Bernat's wife on his wedding night and taken his lands. They flee to Barcelona where if they stay hidden for a year and a day, they will become free men. As a young boy Arnau discovers and finds fascinating The Cathedral of the Sea, a wonderful new church being built in honour of the Virgin, for the people by the people. As Arnau grows up, he becomes a bataix, one of a band of men who carry stones from the quarry to the church to help in its building. Here he finds refuge and love and a place which will become central to his life.

I am not going to give all the details of the story, it would take too long and this review would go on for ever. Suffice it to say, it is a truly magical book and the story of Arnau's journey from slave to nobleman is written on a truly epic scale. As he becomes successful and rich and loved by his fellow citizens in Barcelona, there are those who are jealous of him and who would bring about his downfall. One of these is his very own wife, Eleonor, given to him by the king as a reward for his bravery in battle and who hates him for his indifference to her.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable read
Abook to immerse yourself in the time it was written. the troubles of our times were the troubles of theirs,but kurs are so much easier to escape from. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Campbell Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
brilliant book. kept me enthrauled throught reading it. a read agatin and again.
Published 17 days ago by Anita Chapman
5.0 out of 5 stars Spanish fiction translated
Published 1 month ago by john
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
I bought this book, to see it was a good. Great book I am already half way through it. Good condition. Have Kindle but still like the feel of a good book.
Published 2 months ago by No name
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long and tedious
I agree with some of the negative reviews and have found this book disappointing.
I have read two thirds of the book and will struggle to the end. Read more
Published 3 months ago by ruth true
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read
This book was recommended to me . A fictional story that also contained some facts. typical story line from rags to riches, but. A good read
Published 3 months ago by michael clarkson
5.0 out of 5 stars RECOMMENDATION
The husband of a friend read this and recommended it to me. I am so glad I took him up on this, it is a lovely book. Enthralling, and in a nice writing style. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Tringlass
4.0 out of 5 stars Cathedral of the Sea.
I liked this interesting book. The research into life in Spain at the time this story was set must have been extensive. I did enjoy this book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by E.R.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Carlos Ruis Zafón but still OK
This book was an Amazon suggestion when I was looking at books related to Shadow of the Wind. It really does not compare and it is OK, I tend to try and read every book to the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by H. M. Sykes
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
This is my second time through reading this book and would read it again and again. It has so many layers.
Published 6 months ago by Mrs. S. Callaghan
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