The Secret Lives of Buildings, By Edward Hollis

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The Independent Culture

Likened to the novels of WG Sebald but also reminiscent of Borges and Calvino, Hollis's fairy-tale accounts of 13 buildings from the Parthenon via Hagia Sophia and Notre Dame to the Berlin Wall was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson prize.

Sadly, this reviewer couldn't get on with it. One problem is with Hollis's arch style. Discussing Gloucester Cathedral, he describes how "two white harts" greeted a cart with the body of Edward II: "Tall, luminous and still, they allowed the carters to harness them to the vehicle". Really?

On the Alhambra, Hollis devotes eight lines to the titles of a Spanish king seduced by the Moorish structure. The effect is sonorous, mysterious and, eventually, stultifying. Hollis's glorious subjects disappear under verbal accretion.