Category Archives: Books about Spain

Connectedness: coming soon

I drank hundreds of cups of coffee in Málaga, walked the streets of the Old Town and La Playa de la Malagueta, I’ve sat on benches in Paseo del Parque and eaten plates of fried fish. As you’ll gather, it was hard researching the Spanish element of my second novel, Connectedness! Book two in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, Connectedness will be published on May 10, 2018. This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga. Sandra DanbySo what’s it all about?
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALWAYS HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

If you like the novels of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore, this might be for you. Click here to read an extract. Sandra DanbyAbout the ‘Identity Detective’ series
Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. Sandra DanbyIn the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Read an extract of Ignoring Gravity here. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late.
Sandra Danby

‘Connectedness’ by Sandra Danby [Beulah Press]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
CONNECTEDNESS by Sandra Danby  #Kindle #Spain https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2jV via @Spanish_Valley

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

My Top 5 books about Andalucía

Recently I read a post by fellow blogger and Brit in Spain, Alastair Savage, reflecting on his favourite books about Barcelona. Challenged by Alastair to do the same exercise for Andalucía, here’s my choice. I have avoided ‘general’ books about Spain such as Giles Tremlett’s excellent Ghosts of Spain, one of Alastair’s picks, and have concentrated on Andalucía. Read Alastair’s guide to Barcelona books here.

‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode
Penelope ChetwodeI love my secondhand copy of this slim book for its pale blue cover. Penelope Chetwode, wife of poet John Betjeman, takes a circular ride on her horse Marquesa, around the countryside between Granada and Úbeda in Andalucía in 1961. Charming, quirky. Read my full review of Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía here.
‘Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía’ by Penelope Chetwode [UK: Eland]

‘South from Granada’ by Gerald Brenan
Gerald BrenanDecades before ex-Genesis drummer Chris Stewart bought a house in the Alpujarras, Gerald Brenan lived in Yegen. This is the Spain of the pre-Civil War, contrasting extreme rural poverty with the beauty of the surroundings in the mountains south of Granada. Read my full review of South from Granada here.
‘South from Granada’ by Gerald Brenan [UK: Penguin Classics]

‘Andalus’ by Jason Webster
Jason WebsterPart travel book, part memoir, Andalus tells how writer and journalist Jason Webster explored Spain looking for its Moorish heritage. After Andalus Jason Webster went onto write other travel books about Spain, each of which I enjoyed, before writing his Max Cámara crime novels set in Valencia. Read my full review of Andalus here.
‘Andalus’ by Jason Webster [UK: Black Swan]

‘Driving over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart
This is the Big Daddy of living-in-Andalucía books, with Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence it invented a new genre. Now part of the ‘Lemons Trilogy’ comprising A Parrot in the Pepper Tree and The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society, this is the first and best about life on a remote, hill farm. True isolation. Read my full review of Driving Over Lemons here.
‘Driving Over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart, #1 The Lemons Trilogy [UK: Sort of Books]

‘Death’s Other Kingdom’ by Gamel Woolsey
Gamel WoolseyThe American writer Gamel Woolsey was married to Gerald Brenan. This slim volume recounting their days at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War can be read in one day. She watches Málaga go up in flames from their villa at nearby Churriana, worrying for their safety and that of their neighbours, and what will happen to everyone. A very personal account. Read my full review of Death’s Other Kingdom here.
‘Death’s Other Kingdom’ by Gamel Woolsey [UK: Eland]

5 to remember
un paseo circular – a circular ride
el patrimonio moro – the Moorish heritage
verdadero aislamiento – true isolation
el escritor estadounidense – the American writer
ir en llamas – go up in flames

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
My Top 5 #books about #Andalucia https://wp.me/p3dYp6-2jh via @Spanish_Valley

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

Book review: Granada, A Pomegranate in the Hand of God

Granada, a pomegranate in the hand of god by steven nightingaleAnyone who really wants to understand the magic of Granada should read this book. It combines the history of a city, of al-Andalus, its art, music, philosophy and poetry with the story of an American family moving into a house in the city’s Albayzín.

The author’s description of the delighted reaction of his new neighbours to his small daughter, and their welcoming generosity, mirrors exactly our experiences as newcomers in rural Andalucía. There is a charm about the people here, an old-fashioned courtesy and fascination with strangers, which the author also describes in Granada.

At times I wished for a little more about modern-day Granada and less of the history [this has the feel of an academic book] but it is written with an easy poetic style and is a broad introduction to Moorish Spain. It is a rich and complicated story which, when known, aids understanding of today’s Andalucía.

Click here for more about Steven Nightingale’s books.

If you like this, try these:-
‘The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society’ by Chris Stewart
‘South from Granada’ by Gerald Brenan
‘Ghosts of Spain’ by Giles Tremlett
If you like books, check out my book reviews at my website.

‘Granada, A Pomegranate in the Hand of God’ by Steven Nightingale [UK: Counterpoint]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
GRANADA by Steven Nightingale: an insight into al-Andalus #bookreview via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1AQ

Book review: Midnight in Europe

midnight in europe by alan furst 24-8-141938. Spain at war, Europe on the brink of war. This is the first World War Two novel I have read about the overlap of the two wars, the impact of one on the other, and the approaching shadow of fascism. Nothing happens in isolation. The Spanish Civil War is notoriously difficult to understand: so many factions, changing names etc. Sensibly, Alan Furst concentrates on one aspect: the supply of weapons to the Republicans fighting the fascist army of Franco.

A secret Spanish agency in Paris sources arms and ammunition for the Republicans. Cristián Ferrar, a Spanish lawyer living in Paris and working for a French law firm, is asked to help. Unsure what he is getting into, but resigned to help his mother country, he is soon looking over his shoulder to see if he is being followed – he doesn’t know who by, it could be the Spanish fascists, the Gestapo, the Russians. Inter-cut with Ferrar’s story are excerpts from the front line in Spain where preparations are being made to fight the Battle of the Ebro. The need for the weapons is desperate, as bullets are counted out for each soldier.

Working with an odd mixture of diplomats, gangsters and generally shady characters, Ferrar first travels to Berlin where there is a glimpse of the pre-war country which with hindsight gives us a chill. The Gestapo follows them at every step. Then there is a nail-biting train journey to Gdansk, as an arms shipment goes missing. The climax is a thrilling boat journey from Odessa to Valencia. Ferrar, is a lawyer not a spy, he is simply an ordinary man doing what he can to help. An ordinary man who is, meanwhile, having a sprinkling of love affairs which may or may not be authentic.

If you have been put off before at reading novels about the Spanish Civil War because the politics is confusing, you will enjoy this novel. The shadow of war in Europe is cast over every page, the sense of approaching doom however does not seem to affect the nightclubs of Paris, or the shops of New York where the cheerful atmosphere seems unreal. Ferrar faces moving his family from Louveciennes on the outskirts of Paris, the picturesque country west of the capital which was painted by the Impressionists, to the safety of New York.

This is the first novel by Alan Furst I have read, picked up at random in an airport bookshop. I will read many more.

Click here for Alan Furst’s website.
To read an extract from the book, click here.
Watch this You Tube interview with Alan Furst, speaking about Midnight in Europe.

If you like this, try these:-
‘Ghosts of Spain’ by Giles Tremlett
‘A Rose for Winter’ by Laurie Lee
‘Soldiers of Salamis’ by Javier Cercas
If you like books, check out the book reviews at my website.

‘Midnight in Europe’ by Alan Furst [Weidenfeld & Nicolson]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
MIDNIGHT IN EUROPE by Alan Furst #bookreview via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1eA

Book review: A Death in Valencia

a death in valencia by jason webster 16-7-14This is a book about more than a singular death, it is an exploration of the nature of death and what constitutes murder. Max Cámara, the Valencia detective introduced in Or the Bull Kills You, cannot sleep: his street is being dug up as the new Metro line is being built, the summer heat pulsates, and Valencia is crazy as it prepares for the arrival of the Pope.

The city buzzes with pro- and anti-Catholic emotions, with pro-life and pro-choice campaigners lining up their arguments for the Pope. Meanwhile the police force prepares security for the visit, as a developer is ripping up the old fisherman’s quarter El Cabanyal [below] to build new apartment blocks. On the first page, a dead body is washed up on the shore. A well-known paella chef.

[photo: masialavanda.com]

[photo: masialavanda.com]

Max has eaten the chef’s paella but is taken off the case to help hunt for a kidnapped woman, a gynaecologist who performs abortions. The eve of the Pope’s visit is the worst possible time for this to happen. As always seems to happen in crime novels, two seemingly separate incidents are linked. The link, in this case, is carefully plotted so I didn’t spot it until the end. For me, this is a deeper more intelligent novel than the first in the Max Cámara series [there are now four], perhaps because the author is settling into the genre and the character.

I must add that Valencia simply rocks in this book, it comes alive off the page, the heat, the tension, the grief. I can smell the summer dust.

To watch a video where Jason Webster [above] explains how he wrote A Death in Valencia and how real life influenced the plot, click here.
To watch a film about El Cabanyal, and the threat it still faces from developers, click here. The film is directed by Tristan Martin and narrated by Nigel Planer.
Click here for Jason Webster’s website for more about Max Cámara, Webster’s travel writing about Spain and a new history book, The Spy with 29 Names.

If you like this, try the other Max Cámara books:-
‘Or the Bull Kills You’, Max Cámara #1
‘The Anarchist Detective’, Max Cámara #3
‘Blood Med’, Max Cámara #4
If you like books, check out my book reviews at my website.

‘A Death in Valencia’, Max Cámara #2, by Jason Webster [UK: Vintage]

5 to remember
el calor – the heat
la tensión – the tension
el Papa – the Pope
la fuerza policial – the police force
un cuerpo muerto – a dead body

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A DEATH IN VALENCIA by @Jwebsterwriter #bookreview via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-17Q

Book review: The Ignorance of Blood

the ignorance of blood by robert wilson 7-7-14 (2)A car accident. Millions of euros. A Russian gangster drinking champagne in the middle of nowhere. The opening scene of this, the fourth in the quartet of books featuring Seville detective Javier Falcón, does not disappoint. Robert Wilson’s intricate plotting is spot-on. I read this book voraciously as Falcón struggles to get to the whole truth, admiring the way the author weaves together the story strands from the preceding three books so that at the end you understand though you did not guess.

I did not get the ending right, I expected something different. There are moments when you wonder if Javier can continue, will he step over to the dark side, will his emotional strength desert him? This is the most international of the four books, with Javier travelling to London and Morocco but Seville retains its hot sultry presence. I can smell the dusty heat of the evening where the detectives seem to exist on coffee and cruelty lays just out of sight.

I’m sorry this is a short review, I can’t write more without giving away the plot. There were moments when I wanted to shout ‘don’t do it’ and others when I thought with sad acceptance ‘yes, that’s the only thing you can do’. At the end, I wanted to start reading the series all over again. Well done Robert Wilson [below]. robert wilson - photo robert-wilson.eu 7-7-14 (2)To read my reviews of the preceding three Javier Falcón books, click here.
The Blind Man of Seville
The Silent and the Damned
The Hidden Assassins
To hear Robert Wilson talk about The Ignorance of Blood, click here.

‘The Ignorance of Blood’ by Robert Wilson

Book review: Blood Med

blood med by jason webster 14-5-14Page one, Spain waits, the king lies dying. There is the feeling of a nation on the edge. In Valencia, there are homeless on the street, immigrants are being harassed, the police department faces cutbacks despite rumblings of public unrest, and there are not enough drugs for the sick.

Blood Med is the fourth in the Cámara Valencia-based detective series by Jason Webster. There are two deaths and Cámara and his colleague Torres are given one case each, the hidden agenda is that one of the two men must be made redundant. One death is suspected suicide, the other a brutal murder. In the way of crime fiction, you know there will be a connection but that connection is of course invisible at the beginning.

The detective, orphaned young and raised by his grandfather, now lives in Valencia with elderly Hilario plus Max’s girlfriend, journalist Alicia. Both Hilario and Alicia have key roles in this story. Hilario is a huge influence on Max’s approach to life, and he often recalls his grandfather’s fondness for proverbs when he finds himself in a sticky situation. Visteme despacio que tengo prisa he tells himself when he feels the investigation is being rushed. It translates as ‘Dress me slowly, I’m in a rush’. He feels the investigation has tunnel vision; that it is being rushed and would benefit from a step back. “If he could have his way he would send everyone home for the rest of the day to switch off. Go to the beach, go wherever. And have sex – with someone else if possible. If not, whatever. If helped clear the mind.”

[photo: es.wikipedia.org]

This is the most accomplished Cámara novel so far, the setting in Valencia [above] is so strong and the political background feels very real. The corralito described [the government decree to close the banks] feels very real. There are a lot more stories to come in Max Cámara’s Valencia.

For more about Jason Webster’s novels and non-fiction books about Spain, click here.
For information about visiting Valencia, click here.

If you like ‘Blood Med’, try the first three Max Cámara books:-
‘Or the Bull Kills You’, Max Cámara #1
‘A Death in Valencia’, Max Cámara #2
‘The Anarchist Detective’, Max Cámara #3
If you like books, check out my book reviews at my website.

‘Blood Med’, Max Cámara #4, by Jason Webster [UK: Vintage]

5 to remember
hay el sentimiento – there is the feeling
su colega – his colleague
la investigación – the investigation
la agenda oculta – the hidden agenda
una situación pegajosa – a sticky situation

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BLOOD MED by @Jwebsterwriter #bookreview via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-105