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?