It has arrived at last: publication day for The Lost Book of the Grail. I am looking forward to getting out there on the road and sharing my thoughts about the book with you and of course I’ll be excited to hear your reactions when you have read it. But on publication day, I make a tradition of saying “thank you” to all those who helped make a book possible. I do this by reprinting the acknowledgements from the back of the book. I hope this will not only express my gratitude to so many who help and support me, but also will encourage you to always read an author’s acknowledgements. We put a lot of thought into those words and they, perhaps more than any others in the book, are truly spoken from the heart. Thank you for reading my blog and (I hope) for buying and reading my book. And a special thanks to those below.
The following entry is a reprint of an open letter that I sent to librarians through my publisher Penguin/Random House. You can and download the original letter here.
It’s no secret that I love libraries. My first novel, The Bookman’s Tale, was partially set in a university library; First Impressions featured two spectacular private libraries; and my new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, is set in an English cathedral library. Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time visiting libraries—to read, to do research, to speak and sign books, and sometimes just to soak up the ambience that only comes from a building filled with books.
This continues my series of blogs on my favorite English cathedrals—buildings and communities from which I drew inspiration for my novel The Lost Book of the Grail, published by Viking on February 28.
This week’s choice is a complete departure from all that has come before—Durham, Winchester, Salisbury, and Wells were all fine medieval building, whereas Coventry Cathedral was built between 1956 and 1962, but therein lies a tale. Coventry was the site of a medieval cathedral, built as a parish church in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries and raised to cathedral status in 1918 when the Diocese of Coventry was created. But that St. Michael’s Cathedral, created during wartime, would only last until the next war.
As I look to the publication of my new novel, The Lost Book of the Grail, set in a fictional English cathedral, in a little over two weeks, I continue my series of blogs about my favorite English cathedrals. Today, one which may be less well known, but deserves a visit—Wells.
Where do I even start with Wells Cathedral? First of all, the city of Wells—the smallest cathedral city in England, I believe—is wonderfully charming and preserves many of the aspects of a medieval city. The cobbled marketplace, stone arches, wide green in front of the cathedral, and lovely grounds of the bishop’s palace make it perhaps my favorite cathedral city—and that was before I even saw Hot Fuzz (my favorite Simon Pegg movie, which is partially filmed in Wells). All that and more surrounds you before you even step into the cathedral itself.
My fictional cathedral city of Barchester (and yes, that’s the same fictional city created by Anthony Trollope in the 1850s) needed a founder. In my novel The Lost Book of the Grail, the reader encounters bits and pieces of the history of Barchester from the beginnings in Saxon times through invasions by Vikings and Normans, the upheavals of the Reformation and the Civil War, and even the Nazi bombings of World War II. But through all that history I wanted the spirit of the founder to permeate, and I wanted the founder to be a woman.
Many English medieval cathedrals, originally built in the Norman style, were eventually rebuilt (owing to fire, earthquake, or just the generosity of some fashion loving bishop) in later more light and airy styles like Decorated or Perpendicular. Not so for large chunks of Durham, which retain their Norman weightiness. Some would call it gloom—the Normans had not yet mastered the building technology that allowed for large windows—but I love it. There is an ancient feel to Durhams massive columns and rounded arches that exceeds the soaring gothic masterpieces of later centuries.