Bloomsbury, New York, 2008
Won at LibraryThing.
At the center of this novel is the town of Guernica, a cultural center of the Basque people and the site of one of the first carpet bombing of a town and its civilian population. At the beginning of World War II the German Luftwaffe, showing support for Franco and his rebel forces in Spain, bombed this small town to bits. No one knows how many people died.
Boling tells a story of two families from the Basque Country in the western Pyrenees mountains. The region lies on the border between France and Spain along the Atlantic coast. The story of the Ansotegui and Navarro families begins in the late 1800’s but most time is spent in the 1930’s focused on the meeting and marriage of Miren Ansotegui and Miguel Navarro.
Boling portrays members of both families with depth and caring and there is almost a touch of magical realism woven throughout the book. The reader follows many characters through their lifetimes. Through great detail and lyric language, Boling conveys the rugged landscape and rich history of the region.
Historical figures play important roles, the most obvious being Pablo Picasso. I found this to be the one awkward layer in the novel but I understand Boling’s desire for Picasso’s presence. Many people only know the name Guernica because of the artist’s famous mural and the history surrounding it.
Guernica is a wonderful, carefully written novel about an important piece of European history. It is richly layered, carefully researched and its characters will stay with me for some time.
Boling’s dedication reads: For the victims of Guernica…and all the Guernicas that followed. For more information he suggests a visit to the Guernica Peace Museum.