Castle is, strictly speaking, a book of architectural history—not a history of castle life or a historical novel. The challenges that Lord Kevin faces with his English workers, his Welsh subjects, and the rebel forces are all based on historical conditions, but they are simply typical. They are not developed in any detail and do not hold the reader’s attention. One does not learn when Lord Kevin and his family leave the castle, only that it is abandoned as the town thrives. The lords and ladies are always in the background, mere shadows in the picture of a feast to celebrate King Edward’s visit, while the workers and their work are shown in loving detail. One may wonder about the life of a stone mason or shopkeeper, just as one may wonder about the lives of people in a town one visits, but the emphasis is on the construction.
Master James’s story is quite straightforward. He is an experienced builder and a good planner. Construction proceeds smoothly, interrupted only by the cold winters. The real complexity lies in the building itself. Macaulay anticipates all the questions that readers might have. Where was the dungeon? What did they do for windows or for bathrooms? How would enemies storm a castle? How could people who were inside escape? Macaulay lets readers look at the construction from different perspectives. He provides aerial views, cross-sections, exteriors, interiors, and closeups. He devotes whole pages to illustrations of the...
(The entire section is 592 words.)