Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review of Cathedral of the Sea

Ildefonso Falcones' Cathedral of the Sea is historical fiction set in 14th century Barcelona, following the life of Arnau Estanyol as he goes from impoverished orphan to wealth and status. I thought the novel would be focused on the building of the Santa María de la Mar cathedral, but it served more as a symbolic backdrop and source of inspiration for Arnau. Of course, this is the Inquisition, which touches on virtually everything. It's an entertaining novel.

The novel is centered in many ways on class differences, the way nobles mistreat everyone else, but how the people can fight back. The unique role of Catalonia is critical to this because there are customs and norms that Castilians must accept. That angle represents some of the most interesting parts of the book, especially when Catalonia and the Inquisition clash.

The words "saga" and "sprawling" are cliches but fit. This becomes difficult at times because there are a lot of characters and periodically I lost track, especially when they reappeared after a long time. The dialogue at times can be rather wooden, though I though both the story and the characters really came to life in last 150 pages or so, which were much better than the beginning. There is even a bit of a twist at the end--not everything is tied up perfectly, which worked well in my opinion.


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