Ken Follett is the author of the bestselling, massive novel Pillars of the Earth and its sequels, so he knows a thing or two about cathedrals. His novels revolve around an imagined medieval town in the process of building a cathedral, a project that spans generations. In preparation for writing his books, Follett did years of research on real cathedrals, not least of which was Notre Dame.
Follett and his wife were at home in England when a friend from Paris called to tell him that the symbol of Paris was burning. He turned on the television and they watched, stunned and tearful. In this little book, subtitled A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals, he relates to us his personal connections with Notre Dame, and then goes on to help the reader understand the importance of this church– and cathedrals in general– to our history, literature, and our shared culture. Without the builders’ desire for these houses of worship to reach closer to heaven and to be filled with more light, our knowledge of architecture would not have taken the leaps of understanding required to move from the heavy, squat Romanesque buildings to the graceful, lacy Gothic spires.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Follett’s own personal favorite literary work dealing with the cathedral, and he writes of it lovingly. He moves through the centuries to talk about the symbolic importance of the edifice during World War II, and then the birth of his own book in the 1980s. Not including the color plates in the center, this book is only 62 pages long and the proceeds from its sale will be donated to rebuild the cathedral. It is less than $14 on Amazon and so worth it.
I prayed in the cathedral of Notre Dame for the first time in my life about five hours before it burned, so I have a lot more to say about that experience. Please go to www.TheReaderWrites.com for a fuller accounting, with photos.
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book and then bought a copy to support the rebuilding of the cathedral. My son bought a copy. The library bought 15 copies. You should buy a copy. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.