I did say that Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World It Made by Richard Rhodes has captured my interest and attention in a variety of ways. One good book almost always leads to another, especially a nonfiction book like this. It is as much a social history as a straightforward history of the war. I love the sort of nonfiction that is heavy on anecdotes and narrative and this is strong on both counts. It also has an extensive bibliography which I have already started to comb for reading suggestions. It is heavy on history and memoirs and there are even a few titles that I recognize as I have copies on my own shelves.
One of the nice things about buying books (and not weeding them as regularly as I probably should) is having a ready-made personal library where I can often reach for a book on a number of different subjects. I did a little survey of my own stacks to see what I have on hand and thought I'd share them here. Some I've read and others I am now looking forward to picking up sooner rather than later. Most of mine are novels where the war plays a prominent role or is something that weighs heavily on the story in the background or recent past.
As always feel free to share a recommendation below.
Nada by Carmen Laforet (I wrote about it here) -- "One of the most important literary works of post-Civil War Spain, Nada is the semiautobiographical story of an orphaned young woman who leaves her small town to attend university in war-ravaged Barcelona."
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway -- "The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand."
Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom (I wrote about it here) -- "September 1940: the Spanish Civil War is over, Madrid lies in ruin, while the Germans continue their march through Europe, and General Franco evades Hitler's request that he lead his broken country into yet another war. Into this uncertain world comes a reluctant spy for the British Secret Service, sent to gain the confidence of Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend turned shady Madrid businessman."
Death's Other Kingdom by Gamel Woolsey -- "A heart-rending account of a Spanish village torn apart by the coming of the Civil War - A rare humanist and female voice on a war which has otherwise been colonised by political commentary and male voices." This is a Virago Modern Classic.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (I shared a few teasers here and here) -- "Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love."
A World Between Us by Lydia Syson (YA novel) -- "An epic romance set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil WarSpain, 1936. Felix, a spirited young nurse, has travelled to Spain to help the cause of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. But she is also following Nat, a passionate young man who has joined the International Brigades fighting Franco. And George - familiar George from home - is not far behind, in pursuit of Felix ..." Decided I had to start something and this is the one . . .
The Starched Blue Sky of Spain by Josephine Herbst -- This memoir contains for autobiographical works including the titular essay -- "an explorative meditation on Herbst's life as a radical; and the title selection, a poignant and lucid evocation of the author's experience during the Spanish Civil War."
Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel -- "Madrid 1939. Carlos Tejada Alonso y León is a Sergeant in the Guardia Civil, a rank rare for a man not yet thirty, but Tejada is an unusual recruit. The bitter civil war between the Nationalists and the Republicans has interrupted his legal studies in Salamanca. Second son of a conservative Southern family of landowners, he is an enthusiast for the Catholic Franquista cause, a dedicated, and now triumphant, Nationalist."
The Time in Between by Maria Duenas -- "With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira leaves her mother and her fiancé, impetuously following her handsome lover to Morocco. However, she soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken in an exotic land. Among the odd collection of European expatriates trapped there by the worsening political situation back on the Continent, Sira reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: her gift for creating beautiful clothes."
Guernica by Dave Boling -- "In 1935, Miguel Navarro finds himself on the wrong side of the Spanish Nationalists, so he flees to Guernica, the most ancient town of the Basque region. In the midst of this idyllic, isolated bastion of democratic values, Miguel finds more than a new life-he finds a love that not even war, tragedy or death can destroy. The bombing of Guernica was a devastating experiment in total warfare by the German Luftwaffe in the run-up to World War II . For the Basques, it was an attack on the soul of their ancient nation. History and fiction merge seamlessly in this beautiful novel about the resilience of family, love, and tradition in the face of hardship."
Savage Coast by Muriel Rukeyser -- "As a young reporter in 1936, Muriel Rukeyser traveled to Barcelona to witness the first days of the Spanish Civil War. She turned this experience into an autobiographical novel so forward thinking for its time that it was never published. Recently discovered in her archive, this lyrical work charts her political and sexual awakening as she witnesses the popular front resistance to the fascist coup and falls in love with a German political exile who joins the first international brigade."
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee -- "For Laurie Lee, as for much of the world, 1936 was the end of innocence. Lee recalls the first great journey of his young life, in which he walks through Spain and becomes entangled in the passionate, bloody struggle that was the Spanish Civil War. This memoir, written with the excitement and wonder of a twenty-year-old, is also infused with the prescience of a young adult who sees what lies ahead."
I am pressing on with Hell and Good Company and hope to finish very soon. As you can see I will have lots to explore after I turn that last page.
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Simon & Schuster has kindly offered to provide two copies of Hell and Good Company to two readers here. The giveaway is open to U.S. readers. If you leave your name and email in the comments section I will draw out two names this coming Saturday (always happy to have recommendations, but not necessary if you want to throw your name in the hat!).
I wish I had a copy of the book to send to each person who dropped their name in the hat--unfortunately I've just got two to give away. I used the Random Number Generator to choose two numbers and 1 and 4 were the winners. Thanks very much to everyone for playing along!