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In the early 1940s, Pablo Picasso was perhaps the most famous painter in the world, and his presence was a familiar one in the fashionable cafés of Paris's Left Bank. Even the German soldiers who then occupied the city sought him out. When one particular soldier approached him with a postcard-sized reproduction of his famous painting Guernica and asked, "You did this, didn't you?," Picasso saw again the images of torture and death that haunted his dreams and calmly replied, "No. You did."
Boling's debut is a sweeping, epic tale of love, family, and country set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. In 1935, young Miguel Navarro flees his small fishing village for a new start in Guernica. The center of Basque culture and tradition, Guernica stood precipitously at the mouth of hell. In his search for a new life, Miguel knows none of this and seemingly only has eyes for the beautiful Miren. But their love cannot protect them from the German Luftwaffe, which destroys the city, crushes the Basque soul, and enmeshes Miguel and Miren in a tragedy beyond measure.
Meticulously weaving fact and fiction, Guernica is more than a love story or a war novel. It is a reminder and a promise -- of the torment that so many witnessed and of the will to survive that no war could challenge.
(Holiday 2008 Selection)
Examining the Spanish Civil War and the town that was famously firebombed by the Germans on the eve of WWII, this multigenerational family saga begins with the three abandoned Ansotegui boys, struggling to survive on the family farm at the end of the 19th century; younger brothers Josepe and Xabier become a fisherman and a priest, respectively, while the eldest, Justo, marries and raises a stunning daughter named Miriam. Charismatic, beautiful and the best jota dancer around, Miriam attracts the attention of Miguel Navarro, who winds up moving them to ill-fated Guernica after a run-in with the Spanish Civil Guard. Meanwhile, in nearby Bilbao, Father Xabier waxes political with real-life future Basque president José Antonio Aguirre, striking up an invaluable friendship. Boling's portrait of the Guernica tragedy is vivid, as is his illustration of the Basque people's oppression; wisely, he sidesteps elaborate political explanations that could slow the family drama. Boling is skillful with characters and dialogue, possessing a great sense of timing and humor, though some historical cameos feel forced (especially Picasso, who pops up throughout), and some plot twists can be seen from quite a long way off. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The 1937 firebombing of the Basque town of Guernica is the central event of this ambitious first novel from Seattle-based journalist Boling. Boling has had the good sense to write under the influence of the Hemingway who gave us A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the result is a moving tale of courage and resilience that celebrates the history of an embattled culture while depicting in persuasive detail the communal and representative experiences of a single extended Basque family. It begins with the Ansotegui brothers, who grow up as shepherding farmers after their widowed father abandons them. Ruled by elder sibling Justo, a patriarch even in adolescence, they go their separate ways: Second son Josepe becomes a fisherman, youngest Xabier a priest. When Spanish rebels foment civil war and undertake to humble the pride of the independent Basques, the Ansoteguis are drawn back into conflict and choice, most crucially affecting Justo's beautiful daughter Miren and her husband Miguel (a fishing companion of Josepe's), a beautiful blind woman (Alaia) whom Miren befriends and-most surprisingly-Father Xabier, drawn into politics as a consequence of friendship with his communicant Aguirre, president of the Basque nation. Boling juxtaposes their ordeals with German preparations for the bombing (a "test" of Nazi firepower as much as an act of solidarity with Franco's forces), and after the carnage (horrifically described in searing narrative fragments), the experiences of relief workers, Allied pilots and various others. The Ansoteguis' indomitable will to live is memorably symbolized by the beloved Tree of Guernica-a commanding image shown in Pablo Picasso's eponymous mural,whose conception and creation are also part of this absorbing story. Except for a few too many popular-fiction cliches (e.g., its women are quite improbably gorgeous and valiant), this is a very good novel indeed-and a crucial reminder that genocidal folly is never as far away from us as we might wish. Agent: Kim Witherspoon/InkWell Management