Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Book Was Better

Quite a few years ago, I received as a Christmas present an English language translation of the novel "Cathedral of the Sea" by contemporary Spanish author Ildefonso Falcones.  It was just the kind of book I like... a big, fat, meticulously researched, historical novel.  It takes place in the 14th century, when Barcelona was at its height as a commercial and military power in the medieval Mediterranean.  The story begins with a downtrodden serf who, carrying his infant son in his arms, escapes the brutal, feudal lord and seeks freedom in Barcelona.  After  the father's death, the young boy eventually works as a porter hauling stones for the construction of the Church of Santa María del Mar.  His entire life will be inextricably connected with that church.  Critics compared Falcones and his novel to the British author Ken Follett whose best-seller "Pillars of the Earth" dealt with the building of a medieval English cathedral.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, and the next time that I visited Barcelona, I made it a point to visit the Church of Santa María del Mar.  

It was built in the space of only 54 years, an unusual accomplishment in that era, and it displays a unity of style that is unique for medieval buildings.  It is considered the purest example of Gothic architecture in that region of Spain.  It is also unusual in that it was built with the contributions of the common people, rather than the nobility.

I was quite excited when I learned that Netflix was streaming a TV adaptation of the novel.  The miniseries was originally broadcast by "Antena 3", one of Spain's major broadcasting networks in 2918,

(image taken from the web)

The first episode was promising enough, but after watching the second and third episodes, I gave up on the series.  I thought the acting was mediocre and the script was even worse.  It felt like a low-quality soap opera trying to be an epic historical drama.  It is definitely one of those frequent cases where the book is much better.

I did not know that Falcones had written a sequel to his novel, entitled "The Heirs of the Earth".   Apparently there are plans to adapt that novel as a second season of the miniseries.  I think I will simply seek out the book rather than wait for Netflix to release the adaptation.

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