I gleefully got my hands on an English language version of Cathedral del Mar by Ildefonso Falcones, only to be left underwhelmed. All the references to Barcelona and the descriptions of the streets of Barcelona just didn’t make up for the main story.
The book follows the protagonist Arnau Estanyol’s journey from penniless fugitive to laborer to soldier to super rich merchant (thanks a Jewish man with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of gratitude) to cream of Barcelona society connected by marriage to royalty to criminal and then some. It’s very similar in tone and style to Ken Follet books such as Pillars of the Earth, but not as entertaining. The book was well received by domestic and international audiences and may even get the ultimate Hollywood ratification when it gets turned into a ‘major motion picture’. I think not. A mini series period drama maybe, but not a major motion picture.
I like the fact that the author used his knowledge of the law to bring medieval Catalonia to life and structure his story, but the good bit ends there. The characters are ok if a bit black and white and the descriptions of Barcelona not particularly evocative. But its the meandering nature of the story which gets to you in the end. That and the lack of any unraped female protagonists.
I’m serious. Everyone gets raped.