If you’re planning a trip to Spain, you might think it’s all about the sun, sand and sangria.
This is the side of Spain that is often portrayed in popular media, but if you’d like to know more about the country you travel to, it might be time to move on to some Spanish-set books that delve into Spanish life and tell us a little about the country’s difficult history .
It hasn’t been that long since Spain was divided by a bitter civil war and subsequent years of fascism. It was only when General Francisco Franco died in 1975, after a reign of forty years, that the country was able to embark on becoming the democratic country it is today.
You can find out what it was like for the Spaniards in those years by reading the following novels.
‘Guernica’ by Dave Boling
The city of Guernica is located in the Basque region of northern Spain. In 1937 hundreds of residents were killed when the city was bombed by German and Italian warplanes. This inspired Pablo Picasso to create a painting of the event – the horror of the images helps bring attention to the Spanish Civil War. This novel is the story of that painting and the people depicted in it.We immerse ourselves in the lives of the Ansogegui family in the pre-war period, as well as in the devastating years of the war itself – following them as they try to come to terms with the impact that the conflict has about themselves and loved ones. If you want to know more about the Basque people and this particular slice of history, then this novel is ideal.
“The time of the doves” by Merce Rodoreda
Set in Barcelona before, during and after the civil war, this novel follows Natalia’s life through her suffering and depression. It can be a tearjerker, but it’s also a story of hope and survival. And when you go to Barcelona, you can visit La Placa Del Diamant, the original Catalan title of the novel and a crucial place in the novel.
‘A Manuscript of Ashes’ by Antonio Munoz Molina
This novel begins during the last years of Franco’s reign, in the late 1960s. Minaya is a college student who was jailed for his role in a demonstration. He escapes to the countryside to work on his thesis and is absorbed in a story from the past. It is a mystery, a love story and a portrait of the intricacies and turmoil of the Civil War.
‘Winter in Madrid’ by CJ Sansom
As the title suggests, the location of this novel is the Spanish capital. Englishman Harry Brett was sent to Madrid by the British secret services to spy on an old friend. It is 1940 and Harry is soon immersed in the political complexities of postwar Spain. There is also, of course, a love story or two …
“The Return” by Victoria Hislop
This novel is a curious mix of historical and captivating fiction. And while the style of writing might be considered “beach read”, the argument is not. Told in a mix of past and present, the novel offers a frightening portrait of the war in the city of Granada. It shows how civil war pits neighbors and even siblings against each other, while the ensuing chaos destroys the dreams and relationships of those left behind. If you are planning to visit Granada, this book is a must.
Sure enjoy the amazing lifestyle and culture you will experience on a trip to Spain today, but if you really want to understand the people you meet on your trip then any of these books will help you do that. Immersing yourself in the history of a city or country goes a long way in enhancing your travels, so why not read these novels and take the first step. And once that is done, there are many other books set in Spain to explore …