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Epic story of love, family and war
Guernica - Dave Boling
Member Name: burtybookworm
Guernica - Dave Boling
Date: 07/05/09, updated on 09/05/09 (242 review reads)
Advantages: strong, courageous characters, able to get a good understanding of Basque culture
Disadvantages: Overload of information, thought that sometimes the author slipped back in to journalist mode!
The front cover of Guernica has a by-line that reads "An epic story of love, family and war" and the author Dave Boling shows a short span of history of exactly this.
Firstly, a bit about Guernica. Guernica is a Basque town in Spain. Basque people are usually found in coastal areas and are definitely in the minority with their own traditions and language but generally do not like being referred to as Spanish!
Most people would (if they have at all) have heard of Guernica for the following reasons; it was bombed to destruction during the Spanish civil unrest on the eve of World War II. An unknown number of lives were lost, and Pablo Picasso made it a subject of one of his paintings in the same year as a result.
Consequently, in this book, this bombing and the civil unrest provides the background - or rather the main focus of this book and includes some excerpts of Pablo Picasso's life at that time. I will point out here however, that I found these excerpts a bit unnecessary but I appreciated that they provided a historical focus for the story as a whole. I also noticed a quote on the back of the book that I didn't notice before reading that says, "if you've ever wondered what Picasso wanted to say with his violent angular painting, this is the 370-page caption you were after." So I think that someone more interested in getting in to the mind of Picasso (supposedly!) during the time he painted "Guernica" would actually find this an essential part of the book.
Firstly, I thought this might be a lot for me to take in, and not really my cup of tea. Historical accounts, no matter how fictionalised they are, sometimes lose me and I tend to get bored with all the details. Unfortunately, I did find that this was the case with this book, and it was saved by certain elements. For instance, Boling makes this an extremely character driven novel which does make this a much more interesting account of what COULD have happened to some of the families during this time.
The story interlinks two Basque families beginning in 1893 with three brothers, Justo, Josepe and Xabier who run a farm between them when their mother dies after the birth of Xabier, and their father seems incapable of getting over the loss of his wife. This family is soon linked (but I obviously won't mention what happens and spoil it for you all) to the Navarro's and the story runs straight through to the bombing of Guernica in 1937. However, from the back cover, anyone can see that Miguel Navarro and Miren Ansotegui are the main focus of this story and their love and passion for each other as well as their Basque roots is what makes this story a compelling read.
All the characters In this story are rich and interesting and the history of not only the Basque way of life but the Navarro and Ansotegui families made me want to read on and find out what happened to them before and after the bombing.
However, as I have already mentioned, I did generally still find the masses of information that Boling poured in to the book regarding the politics and war surrounding the civil unrest slightly confusing and quite often a bit dull! I'm sure to those interested in this period of time in Spain would find it tremendously absorbing but I couldn't help myself from skipping over large sections where the overload of information became too much!
The book is sectioned in to timelines and within that, the stories of many of the characters are told. My boredom and impatience came when I started reading about Dodo Navarro and his political campaign. I'm sure that these sections were supposed to be exciting and were supposed to inspire the reader to think about the brave women and men in that time who were willing to help out their allies and fellow Basques, but I couldn't help feeling that Bolings journalistic instincts had taken over and it became an article about the atrocities in Guernica and across the country - the actual author of a novel had disappeared.
For me, this book was definitely saved by the rich tapestry woven between two families and the characters and relationships that the author managed to develop so successfully, and this is a truly harrowing account of human suffering and courageousness.
However I felt that mixing too much factual account with fiction ruined this and making it too much like a journalistic piece. I would say that perhaps this was just the wrong type of book for me to read but anyone who is interested in some factual historical accounts mixed with fictional ones as well as family relationships, this could possibly be a very interesting read.
Summary: Good for those looking for a good mixture of historical fact with interestingly woven fiction.