In Guernica (Bloomsbury $15.00), Dave Boling has written a fine, sobering. and engrossing account of the lives of those people who live in or near one of the most revered places of the Basque people. The story is centered on the lives of the Ansotegui brothers, who are orphaned at an early age. Justo grows up to become the "strongest" man in Guernica, well-respected among the townsfolk; Josepe takes up fishing in the Bay of Biscay; and baby Xabier becomes Father Xabier.
In 1935 one Miguel Navarro, avoiding arrest after an encounter with the Guardia Civil, comes to Guernica, where he meets, courts and marries Justo's daughter, his only child, Miren, famed for her dancing. Together they begin a family. In the meantime, of course, the Spanish Civil War begins. The Basques, given some autonomy, and with an aversion to the Fascists, side with the Spanish Government. The characters try to lead normal lives, but the war moves closer. Food becomes scarce. And the Fascists move closer and closer, aiming to take the port of Bilbao. Guernica itself is of no military importance. But it does provide the Fascist's ally, the German Luftwaffe to indulge in what Winston Churchill called "..an experimental horror". On April 26th, 1937, Wolfram von Richtohofen's Condor Legion made its bombing raid over Guernica, devastating the town and immortalized in the famous mural of Pablo Picasso. The lives of Guernica's survivors are forever changed. And there seems to be little hope left.
Boling gives a splendid picture of the Basque people. Their lives may seem simple at a glance, but they live lives of great passion and with verve and nuance. The minor characters are well-imagined and provide a fine background to the story. The reader feels he knows this town and these people, and their tragedies give us the right amount of pity and terror. Guernica is one of the better novels I have read in a long while, and it is well worth your while to read it, especially if you like family sagas in historical settings.
Here's a video from one of those fine independent bookstores we always mention, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo. Catch their blog for pairings of books and appropriate beers, and follow them on twitter @LIBERTYBAYBOOKS.
Guernica is available at Jackson Street Books and other fine Independent bookstores.As always, books ordered here will have a freebie publishers Advance Reading Copy included as a thank you to our blogosphere friends.
On a side note, I wanted to point out the long-time Jesus' General commenter, Dave von Ebers, has begun a new blog, The Corner Tavern, which you can find here: davescornertavern.blogspot.com. There is already a lot of good stuff on it. Enjoy!