A spell-binding drama set against the sprawling canvas of the medieval age - a bestselling historical masterpiece
Ildefonso Falcones' first novel, Cathedral of the Sea became a publishing legend with over a million copies sold in Spain alone. It has since been published in over forty countries, becoming a European bestseller. In The Hand of Fatima, Falcones marked the four hundredth anniversary of the expulsion of the Moors from 17th Century Spain. His latest novel THE BAREFOOT QUEEN has already sold over a million copies in Spain. It tells of the tumultuous birth of Flamenco in Spain. Falcones is a practising lawyer in Barcelona where he lives with his wife and four sons.
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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"Sculpted and fluid...the international bestseller appears now in an impressively graceful translation which captures beautifully the archaic and lyrical tone of the narrative...Its beauty lies in its vivd exposition of the complexities of a bygone society" * Independent on Sunday *
"Falcones's intricately plotted novel rests on meticulous research...the ambitious yarn binds you into its thrall - a bold work of imagination, which pays homage to lives gone by as well as to the great church itself" * Daily Express *
"Turns on legal and financial manoeuvres rarely found in a historical novel. Passionate in explaning 14th century Barcelona, [Falcones] draws convincing pictures of its architecture and culture, right down to the basics such as the sewage stream...an exciting, very readable adventure novel, enriched by realistic descriptions of medieval life, work, finance and politics" * Independent *
"A powerful historical saga set in 14th century Barcelona that spans slavery, serfdom and anti-Semitism, friendship and thwarted love" * Choice (Book of the Month) *