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Cathedral of the sea
Falcones de Sierra, Ildefonso
Adult Fiction FALCONE

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Medieval Spain's caste system can't keep a good man down in this absorbing epic, a Spanish-language bestseller. Arnau Estanyol, son of a fugitive peasant, starts out in 14th-century Barcelona as a lowly porter who carries stone blocks to a cathedral construction site and ends up a rich moneylender who saves the city from pillaging and frees the serfs of a barony he acquires by marriage. Alas, his dizzying social assent and defiance of the feudal order provoke enraged aristocrats--his status-obsessed wife included--into siccing the Inquisition on him. Arnau is a kindhearted, somewhat passive figure who combines piety, industry and cosmopolitanism to challenge a corrupt, dogmatic church and a parasitic nobility. The plot features thwarted romance, war, plague, immolations and self-immolations, set in a Machiavellian world ruled by privilege, cronyism and brute force. The melodrama is sometimes laid on thick, but Falcones's rich portrait of medieval society is fascinating. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Centered on the life of Arnau, born to a peasant farmer in Catalonia, this weighty novel spans 55 years of medieval history. Orphaned at the age of 14 and responsible for his young adopted brother, Arnau becomes a bastaix and carries enormous blocks of stone on his back from a quarry to be used in the construction of a new Barcelona cathedral, Santa Maria de la Mar. But Arnau is not destined to be a mere laborer. The 14th century is a time of great social upheaval, and class and economic boundaries are stretched to the breaking point, allowing even the child of a peasant to gain influence, wealth, and status. Though there are momentary glimpses of exceptionally fine writing, most of this novel is tediously dry, concentrating more on history and less on character and plot. How is it possible that one of the most fascinating periods of Spanish history-a century that saw recurring plagues, wars, social and economic revolution, the rise of a powerful merchant class, and the Great Inquisition with its persecution of Jews and heretics-could be rendered in such a pedantic fashion? For a far more spirited work on a similar theme, stick with Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/08; Falcones's debut novel was a Spanish best seller, and rights have been sold in 32 countries.-Ed.]-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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