This is an extraordinary book - not, in some ways, an easy read, because each of Hollis' architecture-based faery tales, myths or legends is as intricate, layered and complex as the building it describes, his language is sumptuous and dense and the narratives themselves rich and labyrinthine, but so fascinating and rewarding - with a range of tone and content which reflects the variety of the building being examined.
I found myself entirely taken up by the drama of each tale, yearning to visit sites I have not seen, and look again with educated eyes on those I have. I know Manchester well, so the section on Hulme was interesting in the sense that I had a direct knowledge of the buildings being described, but I also found myself transported to and gaining an understanding of places I have never been to and some I can never see. I am dying to see the Alhambra now!
Actually, I was in Paris just after finishing the book, and went deliberately to Notre Dame to try to trace there some of Hollis' tale of that buildings invention and re-invention. It was like seeing it for the first time again. Though I think the magical flying shrine remains my favorite!
I've never really read a book on architecture before - never thought I would really, but I relished this one. I even found myself genuinely moved, especially by the last few chapters.
If you want something which engages your whole brain, which requires your concentration, which rewards your efforts by the truckload....if X-factor and Britains Got Talent and When Police CCTV Cameras Go Bad brings you out in hives, this book is the perfect antidote to our disposable culture.
Beautiful, intelligent, complex, revealing, fascinating.