LONGLISTED: THE HWA GOLD CROWN 2021
“A thoroughly engrossing, beautifully told look at human frailty.”-Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“I haven’t been able to put this down! It’s such a great read and contains so much! Politics and religion, the birth of an artistic sensibility, the rise of global trade, sassy women, fascinating and original characters.”-Alison Finch, BBC Radio 4
“Cathedral is a brilliantly organised mess of great, great characters. It is fascinating, fun, and gripping to the very end.”-Roddy Doyle
A sweeping story about obsession, mysticism, art, and earthly desire.
At the centre of this story, is the Cathedral. Its design and construction in the 12th and 13th centuries in the fictional 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.
Around this narrative core, Ben Hopkins has constructed his own monumental edifice, a choral novel that is rich with the vicissitudes of mercantilism, politics, religion, and human enterprise. Ambitious, immersive, a remarkable feat of imagination, Cathedral deftly combines historical fiction, the literary novel of ideas, and a tale of adventure and intrigue.
Fans of authors like Umberto Eco, Elif Shafak, Hilary Mantel, Ken Follett and Jose Saramago will delight at the atmosphere, the beautiful prose, and the vivid characters of Ben Hopkins’s Cathedral.
"Comparisons are inevitable to Ken Follett's book about the building of a cathedral... Hopkins' debut is the superior: beautifully written and profoundly insightful about its very human characters and their yearning for both God and Mammon." -- Antonia Senior * The Times * "A memorable tapestry of politics, religion and conflicting human desires." "A thoroughly engrossing, beautifully told look at human frailty." * Kirkus Reviews (starred) * "A novel of big ideas seen through the alluring prism of small lives." -- Sarah Bowers * Historical Novels Review * "Six hundred pages sounds long, but this deeply human take on a medieval city and its commerce and aspirations, its violent battle and small intimacies, never feels that way. This sweeping work is as impressive as the cathedral at its centre." * Publishers' Weekly (starred review) * "Rich, moving, and unforgettable, the historical novel Cathedral exposes the vanity inherent in trying to make a mark on history and exalts the power of love, creativity, and truth to leave a meaningful trace on this ephemeral world." * ForeWord Reviews * "A rollercoaster of medieval life with intrigue, corruption, and power struggles on the one hand, beautifully balanced by integrity, artistic vision and the small joys of ordinary life. A treat for lockdown days." -- Catherine Dunne "Another historical novel that took my eye was Cathedral by Ben Hopkins. This adventure, full of intrigue, is set around a religious monument built in the German town of Hagenburg in the 13th century." -- Martin Chilton "Simply and thrillingly, no more or less than a sprawling gothic epic." "One of the novel's broader purposes, is to dispense with romantic cliche and offer a realistic take on medieval society. "No chivalry, but marks, shillings and pence" says one character - to which Hopkins adds stone, glass, cloth, blood, excrement, and other basic materials." "Set over more than 100 years, from 1229 to 1351, this is the epic tale of the construction of an enormous cathedral in the fictional German town of Hagenburg. Great stuff." * Best Books of the Year So Far * "With intersecting plots about the construction of an enormous church in medieval Alsace, Hopkins has constructed a clever commentary on the ironies of history. He shows how a trading empire can have his roots in something as simple as the theft of a wig, and how forbidden love can lead to a lonely death or to the birth of a new community." "Hopkins weaves together a multitude of voices to examine the relationship between medieval worship and the era's politics and economics. The resulting epic is both sweeping and human." "Cathedral was seven years in the writing and perhaps even longer in gestation but the fruits of Hopkins labour justify all the effort. This is an epic teeming with humanity... A panorama of medieval life that resonates and offers more than a few home truths about human nature. From philosophy to the battlefield, it's all here." "Cathedral is a compelling story, or really a series of interwoven stories, which is a pleasure to read and follow. It's a fast moving, rumbustious book which takes a bit of reading but which I would heartily recommend." "Be prepared to finish the book possibly without pause simply because it is engrossing and the author has the gift to make both his persona and the era they lived in become real for his readers." (5 stars) "Covering 50 years in the history of a small town in the middle of 13th century German Rhineland this is an epic novel in every way.... for a book that is over 600 pages long, I was held gripped till the end. Highly recommended." "Cathedral is an engrossing and compelling novel...I felt heartily involved with the characters. I did find it a dark and troubling read (this is not an 'easy' period of history) but it is a memorable one. It's difficult to imagine a more convincing portrayal of life and death in 13th-century Europe."
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