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.