If you are planning a trip to Spain, you might be thinking it is all about the sun, sand and Sangria.
That is the side of Spain that is often portrayed in the popular media, but if you'd like to know a little bit more about the country you are traveling to then it might be time to turn to some books set in Spain that delve into Spanish life and tell us something of the country's difficult history.
It has not been such a long time since Spain was divided by a bitter civil war and the consequent years of fascism. It was not until General Francisco Franco died in 1975 after a forty year reign, that the country was able to embark on becoming the democratic country it is today.
You can find out what it was like for Spaniards in those years by reading the following novels.
'Guernica' by Dave Boling
The town of Guernica is in the Basque region of northern Spain. In 1937 hundreds of residents were killed when the town was bombed by German and Italian war planes. This inspired Pablo Picasso to create a painting of the event – the horror of the images helping to bring attention to the Spanish Civil War. This novel is the story of that painting and the people depicted in it We became immersed in the lives of the Ansogegui family in the lead up to the war, as well as the devastating years of the war itself – following them as they try to come to terms with the impact the conflict has on themselves and their loved ones. If you'd like 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 the life of Natalia through her suffering and depression. It may be a tear-jerker, but it is also a tale 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 concrete location in the novel.
'A Manuscript of Ashes' by Antonio Munoz Molina
This novel begins during the latter years of Franco's reign, in the late 1960's. Minaya is a university student who has been hospitalized for his role in a demonstration. He flies to the countryside to work on his thesis and becomes absorbed in a story from the past. It's a mystery, a love story, and a picturesque of the complexities and tumult 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 has been sent to Madrid by the British Secret Service to spy on an old friend. It is 1940, and Harry is soon immersed in the political complexes of post-Civil War Spain. There is also of course, a love story or two …
'The Return' by Victoria Hislop
This novel is a curious mix of chick-lit and historical fiction. And while the style of the writing could have considered 'beach read', the subject matter is not. Told in a mix of past and present, the novel gives a frightening portraying of the war in the city of Granada. It shows how civil war pits neighbors and even brothers against each other, while the chaos that follow destroys the dreams and relationships of those who are left behind. If you are planning on visiting Granada, then this book is a must.
By all means enjoy the fantastic lifestyle and culture that you will experience on a trip to Spain today, but if you want to really understand the people that you meet on your journey, then any of these books will help you to do that. Immersing yourself in the history of a city or country does much to enhance your travels, so why not read these novels and take that first step. And once you have done that, there are plenty of more books set in Spain to explore ….