Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cathedral of the Sea - Book Review

Cathedral of the Sea
By Ildefonso Falcones
First spanish publication in Spain 2006
English Translation by Nick Caistor 2008
New American Library 2008

Spain in the year 1320 is a place of great danger. Bernat Estanyol and his infant son Arnau, are forced to escape to Barcelona after Bernat’s wife is appropriated by the cruel feudal Lord of Navarcles. In Barcelona, Bernat and Arnau can be freed from their ties to the feudal land if they live for a year and a day without being found.

But life is never easy for the Estanyols. Despite their hopes, they find that freedom is a relative term when one is indebted to an unforgiving and devious brother-in-law. After the tragic death of his father, young Arnau finds himself orphaned and alone. With nobody to turn to, except the Virgin Mary and the Santa Maria del Mar church, Arnau devotes himself to the church and embarks on a life filled with drama, war, riches and love that his father, a former serf, could never have imagined for him.

Faced with hunger, war, a city in turmoil, and the Spanish Inquisition, Arnau finds a way to escape from his pre-determined feudal destiny: through faith and hard work. He finds love, friendship, and embarks on numerous careers: as a builder of the cathedral, as a moneylender, as a soldier. Cathedral of the Sea tells the extraordinary story of the first populist: a good man who never forgets his humble origins.

Though set in the distant past, Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones is distinctly modern: concerned with what it means to be a man, father, son and, most of all what it means to be free. Cathedral of the Sea is an intensely readable and relatable novel. Engrossing and compelling, the story of Arnau Estanyol is not to be missed.


This is a Chunkster book. It has 600 pages. And I enjoyed every page. This was a great story. If you like history, you will love this book. Yes it took me a week to get through it, but I never got bored with it. There was advanture and action happening on every page.

This story tells of Arnau's life growing up in the time of the Holy Inquisition, Of How he became a bastaix - a labourer of the Sea. And later a soldier and then a money changer. We follow Arnau as he is brought before the Holy Inquisition just because he was getting too rich and the catholic church did not like competition.

The Cathedral of the Sea (Santa Maria del Mar - St Mary of the Sea) is a real church in Barcelona. It was built in the 1320's. The website said it took 5 years to build. This novel says it took 55 years. I dont know which is correct.


Marg said...

I have wanted to read this book ever since I first heard of it. It doesn't seem to be very readily available though.

Historia said...

I borrowed my copy from the library - try there.

Marg said...

The library is always my first point of call. I might have to try an ILL.

Anonymous said...

It sounds fascinating and it will count toward 2 of my challenges: the chunkster and in translation challenges. I will look for it at the library.