Book Reviews, Flamenco

Book Review: The Return, Victoria Hislop

This is the second time that I’ve read The Return by Victoria Hislop. I really enjoyed this historical fiction novel and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Spainish Civil War or flamenco.

Just like ‘Winter in Madrid,’ the book left me asking questions about the Civil War and how people of the same country were capable of doing such horrid acts. For me, it’s beyond comprehension how family members grassed on each other and sent their own blood to their death.

It’s also barbaric how Franco went about becoming such a power in Spain and killing innocent people for having different views to him. I can’t get my head round how his dictatorship led to so much violence and death. Anyway, rant over, here’s more about the book.

Great setting for a historical novel. Photo by ferlomu
Great setting for a historical novel.
Photo by ferlomu

The Plot

As usual with my book reviews I tend not to go into much detail for fear of giving too much away, but it’s about a woman called Sonia who goes on a flamenco holiday to Granada with a friend to escape her drunk husband. While there she becomes more involved in the world of flamenco and meets an elderly waiter who begins to tell her about life during the Civil War.

Victoria switches from the viewpoint of Sonia and also becomes a narrator back in the Civil War, as if told by the voice of the waiter, explaining the emotional lives of a Spanish family.

There are a number of sub plots and twists, which makes for excellent reading.

Why would I recommend it?

Generally I enjoyed how Victoria wrote. I loved the twisting plot and detailed character descriptions. I really felt for Sonia, and also several characters in the Spanish family, especially the mother and daughter. Victoria must have done a lot of research to find out about certain events and she tied in the story splendidly.

I also enjoyed the way she added a sense of romance to the novel, both with Sonia and the family in the war. I find these days that romance always seems to be in the air, which is one reason why I’m writing my novel at the moment. It shows how important love is in the world and the affect it can have on people, in both good and bad ways.

Flamenco is an exciting aspect of the book as well and Victoria shows how this world is of great influence in Spain. She gives some detailed descriptions of flamenco performances and really shows you how it gave hope to people back during the war.

What to watch out for

One thing that did sway me from time to time was the way she used certain vocabulary of a higher level when she could have said it much simpler. It was as if she was showing off at times by using more intellectual words when she could have kept it down a tad. Nothing major though.

The Author

Victoria Hislop lives in Kent with her two children and has written several other books. Her first novel, The Island, has sold over one million copies and was number one in the Sunday Times charts for eight weeks. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s about a Greek family’s life in the 2nd World War.

Her more recent book, The Thread, is also set in Greece but is more of a saga set over a hundred years.

Victoria has also written several short stories, one of which, Aflame in Athens, she donated to Oxfam’s “Ox-Tales” project. She also writes travel articles. You can check out her official website here.

Have you read The Return, or any of her novels? What did you think?

Expat Focus blogs, Expat Issues

Expat Focus: Does being an expat corrupt your mind?

How have you been corrupted? Photo by liquidnight
How have you been corrupted?
Photo by liquidnight

It does to me. Living abroad has affected my habits, personality, and morals in a number of ways. When I first arrived in Sevilla I was hell bent on learning as much as possible about Spain, its culture, and people. I certainly have done, but in the meantime I’ve even changed my own outlook on life, and started doing things that I never thought I would, and not all for good.

Sound familiar? Interested in reading more? Then have a look at my monthly column on Expat Focus titled How has living abroad corrupted your mind? In the article I focus on aspects such as being false, moaning, coffee, and how I speak. Hopefully you can relate.

Expat Focus is a great website and has loads of articles written by expats from all over the world. It’s worth subscribing for their free newsletter too. I’ll be writing for them every month so make sure you follow me if you’re interested in life as an expat in Spain.

Blogs about Spain

Best Blogs about Spain and Expat life: Followed in Sevilla, Selfie at San Fermin, Brits Abroad and more…

This is the first in the series of a compilation of the best blogs I have read about Spain and expat life in the last month. My idea is to publish one of these a month so that you can skip some of the rubbish flying about on the internet. Anyway, here goes.

Triana Bridge in Sevilla... Photo by Calvo Pastor
Triana Bridge in Sevilla…
Photo by Calvo Pastor

Ever been followed abroad?

This blog by Olena, writer of Candies and Crunchies, is about how she got followed while in Sevilla. I must say I’m quiet surprised she got followed, that’s never happened to me here, but I supposed no one follows a long haired flamenco guitarist look-alike.

A Selfie at San Fermin

I’m not sure how true this is, but it’s quiet entertaining. Check out this article on KFWB News Talk about how a guy is being chased by police after doing a selfie with a bull. Mental.

Reasons to go to San Sebastiàn

How many do you need? Check out this excellent blog by Virginia titled Postcard of the Week: San Sebastián, Spain. Virginia is the owner of The Well-Travelled Postcard a useful blog about her experiences travelling and living abroad.

How many Brits live abroad?

What do you reckon? Have a look at this post on Emigrate2news which states just how many Brits live abroad.

How long does it take to get to know a country?

I can sympathize with M, American Expat married to an Italian. I’m still learning loads about the Spanish way of life here and sure there’s a ton more left to discover. Check out her latest blog 6 years in Italy for details on what still shocks her about living in Italy.

That’s all for this month. If you have read anything decent about Spain or expat life then drop a comment below. Cheers.