Jan-Maat's Reviews > The Spire

The Spire by William Golding
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Jan 22, 2012

bookshelves: 20th-century, british-isles, novel, historical-fiction

This might be the finest historical fiction that I have read to date - partly because it works through atmosphere rather than detail.

The book is short and the story simple. Set in medieval England during the reign of Henry II it concerns a new Dean who seeks to have a spire built on his cathedral against advice to the contrary and what results from this.

The transformation of a cathedral into a medieval building site may not sound terribly exciting but it works through atmosphere and the confusion of motivations.

Throughout the Dean's language is centred on glorifying the cathedral but as the novel progresses it is clear that his motivations are more confused and complex. At one moment the Dean has a vision of his spire reaching up into the heavens casting an ever longer shadow across the countryside. Visible from further and further afield more distant travellers and traders turn their feet towards his cathedral. He sees the routes and roads shift to centre on to his town as the new spire becomes a major landmark.

As the book ends there is a properly medieval reveal which clarifies the Dean's drive and the opposition to him. Worth reading.
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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Kalliope I also loved it.. and it was recommended by our Professor of Mediaeval architecture. I should read it again.


message 2: by Jan-Maat (new) - added it

Jan-Maat It is very impressive, I particularly liked the strong sense of the very different worlds of the Cathedral chapter and the builders.


message 3: by Kris (new) - added it

Kris I'm very cautious about reading historical fiction set in the Middle Ages (occupational hazard), but since you both like this so much, I am sold!


message 4: by Kalliope (last edited Feb 10, 2013 12:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kalliope Jan-Maat wrote: "It is very impressive, I particularly liked the strong sense of the very different worlds of the Cathedral chapter and the builders."

Yes, the part about the builders, the masons, is the one that I remember most.


message 5: by Jan-Maat (new) - added it

Jan-Maat Golding's trick I think is that a lot is left to the imagination or knowledge of the reader. I don't think it is even that explicit that the story is set in the reign of Henry II of England and even more importantly that detail could be incidental to the story. The story is much more about the Dean's state of mind than presenting details or his opinions about 12th century England which could be jarring to the reader.


Kalliope That is very perceptive. Since my copy is unretrievable, I have just downloaded it. I may read it again soon.


message 7: by Jan-Maat (new) - added it

Jan-Maat I'll be interested to read how you find it now, perhaps you will end up seducing me into rereading it as well!


Kalliope Jan-Maat wrote: "I'll be interested to read how you find it now, perhaps you will end up seducing me into rereading it as well!"

I will not tackle it immediately (Proust and Bleak House).. but will let you know when I start.


message 9: by Marita (new) - added it

Marita You have convinced me, Jan-Maat. I'll have to read this book.


Kalliope Marita wrote: "You have convinced me, Jan-Maat. I'll have to read this book."

Yes, you do, Marita. I want to reread it... , which I can see I said a while ago already...!!!!... so much to read..., aren't we lucky?


message 11: by Jan-Maat (new) - added it

Jan-Maat Kalliope wrote: "Marita wrote: "You have convinced me, Jan-Maat. I'll have to read this book."

Yes, you do, Marita. I want to reread it... , which I can see I said a while ago already...!!!!... so much to read......"


don't those unreread books haunt your dreams?!

;)


Kalliope My unreread books...




message 13: by Marita (new) - added it

Marita Kalliope wrote: "My unreread books...

"


It looks familiar! :D


message 14: by Marita (new) - added it

Marita Kalliope wrote: "Marita wrote: "You have convinced me, Jan-Maat. I'll have to read this book."

Yes, you do, Marita. I want to reread it... , which I can see I said a while ago already...!!!!... so much to read......"


I've downloaded it as my bedtime reading.


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