The Return

( 11 )


From the internationally bestselling author of The Island comes a dazzling new novel of family betrayals, forbidden love, and historical turmoil.

Sonia knows nothing of Granada's shocking past, but ordering a simple cup of coffee in a quiet café will lead her into the extraordinary tale of a family's fight to survive the horror of the Spanish Civil War.

Seventy years earlier, in the Ramírez family's café, Concha and Pablo's children relish an...

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The Return

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From the internationally bestselling author of The Island comes a dazzling new novel of family betrayals, forbidden love, and historical turmoil.

Sonia knows nothing of Granada's shocking past, but ordering a simple cup of coffee in a quiet café will lead her into the extraordinary tale of a family's fight to survive the horror of the Spanish Civil War.

Seventy years earlier, in the Ramírez family's café, Concha and Pablo's children relish an atmosphere of hope. Antonio is a serious young teacher, Ignacio a flamboyant matador, and Emilio a skilled musician. Their sister, Mercedes, is a spirited girl whose sole passion is dancing, until she meets Javier and an obsessive love affair begins. But Spain is a country in turmoil. In the heat of civil war, everyone must take a side and choose whether to submit, to fight, or to attempt escape.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For her follow-up to international bestseller The Island, British author Hislop has friends Sonia and Maggie jetting off for flamenco lessons in Granada, Spain. Sonia is escaping monotony and a souring marriage to an older man while Maggie is celebrating her 35th birthday. The trip proves an odyssey of discovery for Sonia, who over a morning cup of coffee is mesmerized by an elderly cafe owner's stories of the Spanish Civil War and the Ramirez family who once owned the cafe and were torn apart during the time of Franco and the upheaval of war. Most intriguing was the story of Mercedes, whose passion for flamenco dancing was matched only by her love for renowned guitarist Javier Montero with whom she performed. Separated from her fractured family, she set out to search for Javier in the chaos of Civil War Spain. Dance holds a place of importance in the tale, especially when Sonia learns the truth about her own mother in a twist that adds suspense to the romance and familial drama. The well-done historical background is a rewarding plus in this fast-paced account of love's power through generations. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Can a London girl in a miserable marriage find happiness taking dancing lessons in southern Spain?Partly to escape the dourness of urban life and partly at the insistence of her old friend Maggie, Sonia embarks on a semi-spontaneous trip to Granada to literally kick up her heels. Getting away from her stuffy, usually drunk husband James is an added inducement. Sonia's sweet father Jack married a Spanish woman in the 1950s, so Iberian fire is to some extent already in her blood. During her brief initial visit to Granada, Sonia finds a spiritual home. While exploring the city, she comes across El Barril, a cozy cafe run by Miguel, a survivor of the Spanish Civil War, and is intrigued by some posters and photographs of Mercedes, a flamenco dancer, and Ignacio, a young bullfighter. Sonia's jaunt to Granada frames the main narrative: Miguel's long reminiscence of life in Spain shortly before and during the Civil War. It turns out that Mercedes and Ignacio were children of the cafe's former owners, Concha and Pablo Ram'rez, whose family was torn apart by conflicting loyalties during the war. Hislop (The Island, 2007) uses the Ram'rezes to symbolize and personalize the conflict. Miguel takes us back into the past. Along the way he traces the fates of the Pablo, Concha and their four children. Pablo sacrificed himself rather than let his wife go to prison for listening to subversive radio broadcasts; one of their sons was jailed for his sexual orientation as well as his left-leaning politics; Mercedes traveled across the country in search of the love of her life, a flamenco guitarist whose gypsy blood made him of interest to the fascists. Meanwhile, Sonia discovers some secrets that link herfamily to the Ramirezes. A complex, beautiful tale of loss, loyalty and the past recaptured.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061715419
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Pages: 404
  • Sales rank: 195,782
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Victoria Hislop is the internationally bestselling author of The Island and The Return. She writes travel features for the Sunday Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, House & Garden, and Woman & Home. She divides her time among rural Kent, London, and Crete. She is married and has two children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Passionate, lyrical and teeming with life.The Return is a love story like no other.

    I fell in love with this book! I picked it up and had absolutely no idea what to expect when I opened its cover. What I found inside was a beautiful story about love and a heated battle to protect one's country. This is a story within a story and alternates between Sonia's story, which takes place in 2001 and the story of the Ramirez family that takes place between 1931-1936 and includes the Spanish Civil War.

    The story opens with Sonia and her close friend Maggie's trip to Granada. There, they enjoy the local color and Sonia realizes that her love of dancing is really a thirst that cannot be quenched. Sonia also realizes that her marriage is falling apart yet she isn't quite ready to admit it. She wanders into a café and meets Miguel, a kind waiter that begins to tell her about Granada and the history of the Ramirez family. Upon her return home, Sonia enrolls in a dance class. A dance class that her husband James sees as an intrusion upon their marriage. He lets his relationship with a bottle dictate what happens next and before you know it, Sonia is headed back to Grenada to visit her friend Maggie who has decided to live there permanently.

    Upon her return to Spain, Sonia's love of dance continues to grow. The fiery passion of flamenco pulls her in and she gives into the rhythmic stomping of feet and the clapping of hands. As the music falls upon her, and her feet take over, she finds her true self and begins to truly appreciate the culture around her. As she sorts through her thoughts, she goes back to the café to see Miguel and to learn more about the Ramirez family. Miguel is a natural storyteller, and regales Sonia with the story of Mercedes and her family. What she discovers changes her life forever.

    I highly recommend this book! Victoria Hislop takes a period of history that I knew very little about and creates a sweeping tale that's left quite an impression on me. So much so, that I have been reading up on the Spanish Civil War. It's THAT kind of book! Once it ends, you want the adventure to continue.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    War, Love and History

    The Return is a beautiful novel of the Spanish Civil War, infused with dance and relationships, the sound of castanets and guitar contrasted with gunfire and screams. As with her previous novel, The Island, Victoria Hislop surrounds the story with a tale of modern womanhood in search of identity. This time a woman is questioning her marriage, finding unexpected solace in dance classes, and wondering at the incongruity of an independent woman enjoying the apparent subservience of being "led" around the dance-floor.

    Visiting Spain with a childhood friend, Sonia Cameron is drawn to a small café where she meets and befriends the elderly Miguel. Photos of dancers and bullfighters on the walls intrigue her and she strikes up a conversation that will haunt her on returning to England and swiftly draw her back. Miguel, who lived through the horrors of civil war, reveals the stories behind the pictures and the café's former owners; meanwhile Sonia learns the truth behind the dance, that both will lead and both follow, and that strength can be the quietest gift.

    I knew little of the Spanish Civil War before reading this book. The author again delves into well-researched history, just as she did with The Island, and the story is told through a mix of historical and closely personal viewpoints, full of detailed facts and human pain and joy. A family grows up; siblings leave the nest; politics and war leave their deep wounds, and a world is changed. Somehow I'd failed to notice how closely the Second World War followed on the events in Spain, or how they were connected. I hadn't realized how closely the Catholic Church became involved. I hadn't even considered which side was which. The novel reveals the history and background, infusing it with human interest and drawing the reader in to care for the family's tragedies. But the greatest scenes, for me, are the dance and the lingering touch of dance on relationships; the longing to dance, the emotion of dance, the truths that dance expresses that don't need words.

    I enjoyed this book better than The Island, I think because the history and point-of-view changes felt more natural. But both are fascinating and inspiring reads, not just for history, but also for a woman's touch and the truth of identity. A long, involving novel, The Return is definitely recommended.

    Disclosure: I borrowed this book from a friend of my mother.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    Great to share

    My family is from Spain and I have often looked for a book that outlined the events of the Spanish Civil War. The characters are rich and the writing beautiful. It captures the spirit of a nation. I have shared it with my entire family and they thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a touching, vibrant historical fiction novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Much like Memoirs of A Geisha introduced us to Japan, The Return takes us to Spain during the Spanish Civil War

    Sonia visits Granada to celebrate a friend's birthday with a dance class. Unfamiliar with the city's past and the brutality under Franco's regime, a chance encounter at a neighborhood cafe introduces Sonia to the brave and complex story of the Rodriguez family's suffering and survival through the Spanish civil war.

    Seventy years earlier, Concha and Pablo owned and managed the same cafe with no notion of the danger and pain that would soon visit their family. Their eldest son, Antonio, is an idealistic young teacher. Their second child, Ignacio, is a star matador. Their only daughter, Mercedes only loves to dance and would spend her days honing her skills with their third child, Emilio, a gifted musician. But when Ignacio is seduced by General Franco's policies, the civil war tears the family apart.

    Book Review:
    Beautifully written, The Return transports you to the Spain during the complex and extraordinary time of the Spanish Civil War. You will be drawn in as Concha and Pablo try to keep the Rodriguez family together and safe. The children battle their fates. Bullfights, Spanish dancers, Federico Garcia Lorca, warring brothers, loving parents, and star-crossed lovers, the story offers beauty, drama and violence. The stories of love and sorrow will linger with you for a long time.

    Publisher: : Harper Paperbacks (October 6, 2009), 416 pages.
    Review copy provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A super tale

    Her marriage to a much older Englishman is tedious so Sonia and her best friend Maggie take dancing lessons. When she sees pictures of her mom, Sonia decides to learn more about her maternal heritage in Spain. She and Maggie fly to Grenada for flamenco lessons to escape from the monotony and find the former's roots.

    At a café, the owner tells Sonia about his family in the 1930s. Concha and Pablo Ramirez raised four children while running a café in town. Antonio is a teacher; Ignacio is a matador; Emilio is managing the café; and their only daughter Mercedes is a flamenco dancer, who loves guitarist Javier Montero. Life is good for the Ramirez brood until the Spanish Civil War erupts.

    This is a super look at Spain that fascinatingly uses the impact of the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s that killed a half million people in three years on yet unique aspects of the culture survive such as a love of dance and the risk of bull-fighting. Readers will appreciate this tour hosted by the Ramirez family as Sonia finds her maternal roots and much more; symbolized by seven decades old dancing shoes.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2010

    Interesting but....

    The subject matter on which the novel is based, the Spanish Civil War, is one about which most of us know very little. That was the main reason I picked up the book. Hislop does present the events in an informative manner although there were times when I had the sense of reading an encyclopedia entry. The story kept one's attention; the reader gets caught up in the fate of the characters. However, the writing style seemed somewhat stiff, wooden. In spite of the drawbacks mentioned, the novel is worth reading, mainly because it highlights yet another tragic era of the 20th century.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Fascinating Read

    I picked up this book because I previously read The Island by Victoria Hislop and enjoyed it so much I assumed her second work would be equally impressionable.

    I was 100% correct. This was the first book I've read regarding the Spanish Civil War and the amount of research that went into this book and the subsequent telling of the story was astonishing with all the details. I enjoyed the two storylines and the intersection it led to.

    I'm sure the story of the Ramirez family is one that many Spanish families can sympathize with and one that historical fiction readers can empathize with.

    All in all, one of the best books I've read in a while.

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    Posted January 28, 2011

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    Posted April 17, 2011

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    Posted February 23, 2015

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    Posted November 7, 2013

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