*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Author: Ben Hopkins
Publisher: Europa Editions
Publication Date: January 21, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:
At the center of this story is the Cathedral. Its design and construction in the 13th and 14th centuries in the Rhineland town of Hagenburg unites a vast array of unforgettable characters whose fortunes are inseparable from the shifting political factions and economic interests vying for supremacy. From the bishop to his treasurer to local merchants and lowly stonecutters, everyone, even the town’s Jewish denizens, is implicated and affected by the slow rise of Hagenburg’s Cathedral, which in no way enforces morality or charity.
As someone who loved Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, I was so excited to find a book that I thought would live up to the same hype. After all, the comparison is right at the end of the synopsis online. Unfortunately, Cathedral fell very flat in comparison. I love a good story of stone masonry and cathedral building, especially when there is artistry and political turmoil involved. Hopkins’ book had the potential to be something great, in my mind, but instead, I found it to be a dry, dragging, patchwork story that left me confused more than anything else.
Firstly, there are so many characters in this book, many of whom it’s hard to care anything about. The presentation of the characters is convoluted at best, and it was very hard in the beginning to keep track of whose perspective was being presented. As I got used to Hopkins’ writing, the POVs became slightly clearer, but there was so much going on and so much jumping around, it was impossible to get invested in anyone’s story. Even character deaths were treated with so little fanfare, that I almost missed TWO separate character deaths. Now, I real A LOT of books, and I like to think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on writing and literature in general, but for me to nearly miss two deaths speaks volumes for the quality of writing here.
The plot itself was lacklustre and almost non-existent in some places. The story meandered with no real rush, falling flat in terms of engagement. It took me almost 3 weeks before I finally gave up reading because it just didn’t hold my attention. I only made it through the first through books of this epic tale. I wanted to be swept off my feet, but instead, I dreaded having to pick up this beast of a book (hardcover, 624 pages!) and keep reading it for another 3 weeks to try and get through it. I just can’t.
It’s getting pretty decent ratings on Goodreads, so for true historical fiction fans, this might be one to try, but alas I can’t say I’d endorse it. This book and I are parting ways, which is probably for the best. I hope you’ll enjoy it more than I did.