Cathedral of the Sea

  • by Ildefonso Falcones
  • Narrated by Paul Michael
  • 22 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

At last: The international best seller - which has already sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide - comes to America! Cathedral of the Sea follows the fortunes of the Estanyol family, from their peasant roots to a son, Arnau, who flees the land only to realize spectacular wealth and devastating problems. During Arnau�s lifetime Barcelona becomes a city of light and darkness, dominated by the construction of the city�s great pride�the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar - and by its shame, the deadly Inquisition. As a young man, Arnau joins the powerful guild of stone-workers and helps to build the church with his own hands, while his best friend and adopted brother Joan studies to become a priest. When Arnau, who secretly loves a forbidden Jewish woman named Mar, is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself faceto-face with his own brother. Will he lose his life just as his beloved Cathedral of the Sea is finally completed?

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What the Critics Say

"This sweeping historical novel set in fourteenth-century Catalonia recounts the story of Arnau Estanyol, a laborer who unwittingly becomes embroiled in social upheaval in Barcelona. Narrator Paul Michael uses a range of vaguely European-sounding accents to portray the story's nobles and peasants. His smooth pronunciation of Spanish and French names surely renders the audiobook less cumbersome than the written tome. Michael's clear, masculine voice is well suited to the extensive narrative passages describing life in medieval Barcelona: war, plague, the supremacy of the aristocracy, and the Spanish Inquisition. The tale of Arnau's lifelong search for happiness was a bestseller in Spain for more than a year. This translation is a gem, employing elegantly simple language to portray a significant era." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Very good historical novel.

The point of the novel is the historical setting as much as the characters, so if you don't like historical detail, there's not a lot of reason to read it, or complain about the detail if you do. If you don't like cheese, don't order a pizza.

This is good historical novel, with a strong setting and enough detail to make the characters and their actions make sense. The story takes place over two generations in 14th century Barcelona, and is about class, wealth, political intrigue, trade, and of course social conditions in a time of great change. While there is plenty of romance, revenge, abuse, family, and all the elements of mainstream novels, the central story is still the historical setting. Women are horribly abused, Jews are persecuted, serfs are treated like dogs, and all is taken for granted because that was the history of the era.

Throughout, though, the writer deliberately demonstrates these horrors as, well, horrible, and that is much of the point of the book--the strife to overcome these issues and live as well as possible. It is well done.

There are some shortcomings. The writer is a bit unsophisticated at working the historical lessons into the scenes, so at times he describes too much without enough action. And the construction of the novel is a little simplistic at times--most mysteries are wrapped up quickly, before new scenes are begun. Doesn't quite earn the label "eposidic," but close. Also, some scenes don't ring true--characters do things that are way out of character at times.

The novel is easily compared to Follet's two medieval novels, rightfully so, but there are differences. Falcones is less melodramatic, less manipulative, and less cheesy (mostly), but he's not as good at the larger setting as Follet, and the story isn't quite as layered. It's also not nearly as long.

Overall, I loved it, but it was a bit weak on development, though the setting made up for it. Follet fans will probably like it.
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- Joseph

Fantastic Story and Narration

I've listened to about 10 Audible audiobooks, mostly historical fiction. This is my first attempt at a review. I felt so strongly about this book that I decided to go for it. You will NOT be disappointed. This is a fantastic story in every way. You will put your credit (or $) to great use.
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- Martha

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-08-2009
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio