Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book Review: Guernica by Dave Boling

This is the story of two Basque families in Spain during the Spanish civil war – and of the infamous German bombing of civilians in Guernica, it’s repercussions in the two families, and of the famous mural painted by Picasso when he heard about the atrocities and suffering.

We learn in the prologue that Justo, once the town’s most celebrated citizens, is one armed and miserable two years after the bombing. This has the effect of giving the subsequent narrative a strong sense of foreboding, something I did not like. As the early section speeds through Justo’s youth, marriage, the birth and maturation of his daughter Miren and the birth of his granddaughter, giving us lovely vignettes of their strong bonds to family and country, I could not help but think of the prologue and what must happen to Justo’s family for him to be so alone.

After the inevitable happens on April 26, 1937, the novel shifts focus slightly to include a British couple who help displaced Basque children and a group of people who smuggle goods and people from Nazi occupied France into Spain.

Justo, Miren, and a blind girl named Alaia whom Miren befriends are standout characters here and it’s alone worth reading the novel just to spend time with them. Though I was really ready to chuck the book at a wall after the bombing, I am glad I stuck with it to the end (which was satisfying despite being obvious to me and based on a huge coincidence).

Guernica is now out in hardcover. This is my second (and last) review that qualifies for the LT Author Challenge hosted by Dawn at She’s Too Fond of Books.

11 comments:

Serena said...

This looks like a great book...thanks for the review.

bermudaonion said...

I've got this one in my TBR pile. I hope I don't end up throwing it!

Taren said...

That sounds really interesting. Guernica is one of my favorite Picasso paintings, despite what it represents obviously.

Beth Kephart said...

For the longest time I worked on a book that takes place in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. A few days ago I thought about returning to it. Your review here makes me think even harder about that.

Amber said...

Sounds amazing - I also love the Guernica Picasso painting, we studied it in my Art History class last year.

Ali said...

Ahhh, the LT Author challenge! I totally dropped the ball on that one. Shoot. Though, I did read and review two during the challenge, I did them before I knew about the challenge.

Glad you (mostly) liked this. Curious: were you ready to chuck the book at the wall because you didn't like the way Boling treated the bombing in the narrative, or because the reality of what happened at Guernica made you angry?

Lenore said...

It is a great painting - I was even lucky enough to see it live in Madrid.

Beth - You really should!

Ali - I wanted to throw it not because Boling did not do his job well, but because he did it too well. I thought, how can I go on now that my favorite characters are gone? What could possibly come in the last part of the book that would be of any interest to me without them?

Emily said...

We studied Guernica by Picasso in Art. Love the painting! Maybe a great book!

Dar said...

Lenore, thanks for the review of this one. I had been interested in knowing what this one was about and if it was worth reading. I think it's going on the list.

dawn said...

I really liked *Guernica* and thought Boling wrote the bombing section especially well - short, terse sentences; short, terse paragraphs.

The wrap-up coincidence was my only disappointment (too neat for me), but the quality of the novel overall, and the interest it generated in me for Picasso's mural (I'm not a big fan of contemporary art), had me forgiving the tidy ending.

bcfreviews said...

For those of you who enjoyed Guernica, you may find my interview with the author interesting. :)

http://authorinterviews.wordpress.com/category/dave-boling/