Guernica – Book Review

Guernica: A Novel by Dave Boling

Release date: Tuesday, September 2, 2008

“Guernica” by Dave Boling is a beautiful historical novel based in the Pays Basque (Basque country) in Spain from about 1930 to 1940. The main characters are Basques living in either Guernica or a fishing town on the Bay of Biscay.  These are simply people who desire the simply pleasures of family, food, and dance; unfortunately their story is set against the destructive background of the Spanish Civil War.  Because the Basque people, along with the people of Catalonia, attempted to maintain a degree of autonomy from Spain they became a particular target for Franco’s Nationalist troops and their German allies.  Because Guernica in particular was an historically important place to the Basque people, it was subject to an horrendous bombing by Franco’s German allies.  This bombing is memorialized in Picasso’s famous painting, Guernica.

Everything above (and more) I learned from Boling’s “Guernica.”  My previous knowledge on the Spanish Civil War was limited to the fact that it happened immediately prior to World War II and that Generalissimo Fransico Franco was the victor and became Spain’s fascist dictator. By no means, however, is “Guernica” merely a plot-driven history with weak or incidental characters.  Each of Boling’s characters came alive brilliantly for me.  I merely absorbed the historical knowledge through their compelling stories.

Boling structured his story in an interesting manner.  The beginning of the novel was incredibly broad and jumped from character to character every few paragraphs.  It was a bit overwhelming at first, but I decided to have faith in Boling and followed through.  As I suspected it might, the story tightened up, and the lives of the various characters continued to intertwine more and more.

This is a beautiful story with characters and setting that are imbued with life and humanity.  I became so invested in the story of these families that the ending brought tears to my eyes.

Buy this book on Amazon.

19 comments to Guernica – Book Review

  • Great review! I really want to read this book. I just read The Spanish Bow which is a historical fiction that takes place around this time period and it is very fascinating. I didn’t know a whole lot about this time period either. I do remember reading and loving Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls which takes place in Spain during the Revolution. Thanks for the review! I’ll have to pick it up!

  • Thanks for a great review – I can’t wait to read this one.

  • I loved this one, too! I posted my review yesterday – and I’m giving away my ARC, if your readers are interested.

  • Nen, have you seen Pan’s Labrynth? I think after reading this book, you would really enjoy the movie…it’s a bit creepy/disturbing, but also incredibly beautiful, you should Netflix for a reading break (I know, what’s that, right?)! Also, I now want to read this…I’ve been interested in Franco after learning about him in some Spanish classes and seeing Pan’s Labrynth, thanks for the review!

  • Mel, If we used Netflix, I would. We only ever rent movies from redbox, but in this case perhaps I’ll make an exception and go to blockbuster or something if I can’t find it.

  • I remember studying Guernica in high school and college. I still think it’s fascinating. I will definitely have to keep this book in mind. I would love to learn more about that period.

    I would agree with Melody about Pen’s Labrynth. It’s a wonderful film. I’m queasy when it comes to movies, but this was so beautifully filmed and paced that it didn’t bother me at all. What’s redbox?

  • Redbox and DVD Play are those DVD kiosks that are outside of grocery stores (at least here in Chicago). You can rent stuff for one night for a dollar or two and a dollar each additional night. They are lovely, because they are right where you need to be anyway.

  • tracy

    You’ve convinced me to move this one up on my TBR pile:)

  • Charley

    This sounds interesting. I’ve been wanting to read more historical novels, so I’ll have to consider this one.

  • Wonderful review! You just added anohter to my TBR!

  • Wow, I may be the only reader who wasn’t thrilled with this book.

  • I’ve got to get this one – thanks!

  • I just posted a review of this book on my blog – and completely agree with you! Fabulous book with such wide scope (I’m a sucker for these family epics dropped into an historical moment). I couldn’t resist using the photo of Picasso’s painting either!! Great review!

  • This sounds like a book I’d enjoy; my husband’s an artist, and Guernica’s his favorite work by Picasso. And I’m quite fascinated by the Basque people and the Basque region of Spain.

  • Great review, and nice you found a picture of Picasso’s painting too. I have a copy of this coming and I can’t wait to read it.

  • I bet this is translated into Spanish. Anyone know? I usually try to avoid reading translations, but I think I would get the flavor of the times in Spanish, if it is a good translation

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