The Down and Dirty
On April 26, 1937, the German Condor Legion bombed the bejeesus out of a small Basque town in Spain called Guernica.
Hitler had "loaned" his deadly Luftwaffe to the soon-to-be facist dictator Franco who was battling for control during the devastating Spanish Civil War. No one knows for certain how many civilians died that day. Guernica had no air defenses and it was market day in the center of town. What is known is that the majority of the town was completely destroyed and a new age of attacking civilian targets was ushered in.
Dave Boling's debut novel Guernica is an intensely personal examination of the destruction of a town. Rather than take on the entire political spectrum that led to the bombing of Guernica, Boling examines the lives of two families who are Guernica. Like families the world over, they live, they love, and in this case, they suffer losses unimaginable in the Western world today.
The Lit Crit
This is a character driven novel and Boling fills the novel with complex, rich characters, making the reader a part of the community. You feel as if you have known these characters all of your life...their joys are your joys, their pain is your pain.
You should be aware that the passage relating the actual bombing is, perhaps, one of the most intense scenes on paper. Be prepared for tears, anger and excruiciating anguish. The jarring transition from character-centric to stark destruction masterfully mirrors the transformation of Guernica from a sleepy, peaceful town to a raging inferno.
Don't look for a happy ending here. Thankfully, however, neither does Boling offer up a gratuitous sob-fest. He sees it through to the end and you can expect a healthy dose of realism. Anything less would have cheapened the novel.
Highly, highly recommended. This novel is one that will stay on your permanent shelves (right next to a box of Kleenex) to be read and re-read. There is a good reason this book won the 2009 Pacific Northwest Book Award for Fiction.
If you would like to learn more about the broader political situation of the Spanish Civil War and Spain's role during World War II, pair this novel with C.J. Sansom's novel, Winter in Madrid (review here). Both novels would make the perfect gift for your favorite history buff.
The Metro recently interviewed the author -- one of the best interviews I've ever read and worth checking out.
Author: Dave Boling
Publisher: Bloomsbury, USA
Date: September 2, 2008
Some More Reviews in Blogland:
A Lovely Shore Breeze
Fresh Ink Books
BCF Book Reviews
The Optimistic Bookfool
She Is Too Fond of Books
Redlady's Reading Room
Muse Books Reviews
Devourer of Books