Discover Why ‘Notre-Dame’ Became the Heart of Paris [REVIEW]

Ken Follett in front of Notre-Dame de Paris

Ken Follett in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. (Photo by The Follett Office Ltd.)

Notre-Dame de Paris is perhaps the most iconic cathedral in the world. For centuries, it has been at the epicenter of history—for believers and nonbelievers alike. So when it caught flame on April 15, 2019, images of this burning monument dealt a devastating blow to people around the globe. Now author Ken Follett, perhaps best known for his mega-bestseller The Pillars of the Earth, a novel about the construction of a fictitious cathedral, delivers Notre-Dame, a concise but captivating volume about the meaning and history of this beloved architectural gem and why it still captures our imaginations after all these years.

Ken Follett's NOTRE-DAME


I still remember the first time I read Follett’s Pillars when it was initially released back in 1989. At the time, I only had a casual appreciation for Gothic architecture. But when I entered his world of Kingsbridge, it quickly became apparent that cathedrals were the the foundation upon which cities were built.

With Notre-Dame, Follett once again guides us through time, back to before the construction of the cathedral, when a temple to the Roman god Jupiter stood in its place. He reveals how the Notre-Dame we know today, although initially conceived back in 1163, isn’t even the original cathedral, and tells us how and why it was built. We also discover how the structure eventually fell into disrepair and why Victor Hugo’s beloved 1831 novel about a disfigured  hunchback led to a restoration project in 1844 which would last for 20 years. We even learn why the cathedral became an important site during World War II for one of history’s most revered leaders.

Mostly, however, Notre-Dame is Follett’s love letter to the cathedral itself, despite the fact that he isn’t a religious believer. Still, he reminisces about its influence on his Kingsbridge series, and how the intense research he’d done for Pillars made him somewhat of an expert on the subject and inspired his most popular novel.

Whether you’re a reader who loves history or simply learning about the inner-workings of an author’s mind and the motivations behind his work, Notre-Dame is a captivating glance into a world where faith and politics collide right at the heart of Paris. It is also a good introduction to the architectural history of one of mankind’s most beloved buildings and is the perfect primer for art history buffs too. Please note, however, that at only 80 pages, this book is far from a comprehensive volume about the cathedral’s entire history or its architectural schematics. Still, it is the perfect glimpse backward for the mildly curious, a bite-sized account which reveals a writer’s inspiration in one succinct book.

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Ken Follett is one of the world’s best-loved authors, selling more than 170 million copies of his 31 books, Follett’s first bestseller was Eye of the Needle, a spy story set in the Second World War.

In 1989, The Pillars of the Earth was published and has since become Follett’s most popular novel. It reached number one on bestseller lists around the world and was an Oprah’s Book Club pick. Its sequels, World Without End and A Column of Fire, proved equally popular and the Kingsbridge series has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

Follett lives in Herfordshire, England, with his wife, Barbara. Between them they have five children, six grandchildren, and two Labradors.

For more information, visit, subscribe to his YouTube channel, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

By Ken Follett
80 pp. Viking. $17.

Purchase Notre-Dame at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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