The Return by Victoria Hislop
Sonia is looking to get away for a bit from her less than happy marriage and travels with her friend Maggie to Spain. They go to take dance lessons, but in a cafe one morning, Sonia finds more. She knows her mother was Spanish but never returned after the Civil War, but she knows no more than that, either about her family’s history or about the history of the Spanish Civil War. Befriending Miguel, the owner of the small cafe, Sonia begins to learn the story of the family who once owned it, before and during the ravages of the Civil War.
The Ramirez family was a fairly liberal family in conservative Granada, which did not bode well for the when the fascists wrenched control from the government, particularly as Granada fell rather early in the conflict. Mercedes Ramirez was the heart of Miguel’s story and, as the youngest and the only girl, the heart of the Ramirez family. She is a remarkable flamenco dancer and soon falls in love with Javier, an equally remarkable guitar player, for whom she dances.
Honestly, I found the arc of the story to be a bit predictable – the family’s story, that is, and how everything fit together, not the outcome of the war, that would be a silly thing to complain about. I knew the connections that would be made far before the end of the story. I also had a very hard time getting into the book at the beginning. Sonia’s trip to Spain didn’t really capture my imagination, nor did some of the early descriptions of the family’s life before the war began.
All that being said, once the war started, the story really gained momentum. I became enamored of Mercedes’ story, as well as those of her mother and brother and didn’t want to put the book down. The writing and language was quite good throughout, I just wasn’t drawn into the plot or invested in the characters very quickly. Once I was, though, I quite enjoyed the story.