Category Archives: Spanish Civil War

Review of ” Forgotten Places: Barcelona and the Spanish Civil War” by Nick Lloyd

A must read for anyone visiting Barcelona.

Nick Lloyd has produced a brilliant account of a fascinating city and an even more fascinating period of political and social upheaval. Nick’s book is an expansion of the walking tours he provides and gives far more detail than you could pick up in one of his excellent 4 hour tours. By the way I highly recommend the tours if you are in the city even if you’ve read his book.

His knowledge of the period and the political factions is extensive and he explains in a very readable style the background behind these causes of conflict that makes the history easy to follow, but not too simplified.

Whilst the book is a history lesson in itself, it also allows the reader to explore locations from rare Republican street signs that were all but obliterated after Franco’s victory to bullet holes and bomb damage that still scar the city today. Throughout the book are fascinating stories of individuals and locations that he has picked up from his 20 years residence in the city. Did you know that Popeye was used as a mascot of the anarchists?

A must read for anyone visiting Barcelona and a unique record of the first and only modern city in the world to have anarchists in its government and also one of the first cities to be area bombed from the air.

Review of “Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World it Made ” by Richard Rhodes

Human stories during the Spanish Civil War woven into a compelling book.

In the initial section Rhodes details in a readily understandable form the build up to the Spanish Civil War and how General Francisco Franco led a military revolt against the republic aided by Mussolini and Hitler. The republican side was aided by Stalin for a time, whilst the other western powers stood aside. Despite the non-intervention of the western powers, 40,000 foreign volunteers came to the republic’s aid.

The author tells the stories of some of those who travelled to Spain to support the republican cause. There’s some obvious characters here, Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, a brief appearance by George Orwell as well as lesser known characters such as Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon, Edward Barsky, an American doctor and Patience Darton, a British nurse.

Robert Merriman, a Communist from California also features prominently. He was the commander of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of US volunteers on which the hero of Hemingway’s war novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls was based.

The book does concentrate quite significantly on the medical aspects of the Spanish Civil War as well as the processes that went into the creation of the major modern art pieces the war produced namely Picasso’s “Guernica”, and the lesser known “The Reaper” by Joan Miró for the 1937 Paris World Fair both commissioned by the Republican Government. The book would have benefited from images of these art works, however I was reading an ebook review copy so the final versions may well have photos.

The book focuses on the characters and their personal stories and is therefore not a military history, however it’s better for that. Personal stories have much more impact and I found the story of Patience Darton particularly moving. If you are at all interested in the Spanish Civil War then well worth a read.

Review of The Whispering City by Sara Moliner

Highly acclaimed in Spain, this is a cracking thriller set in a believable 1950s Barcelona that builds the tension to a brilliant climax.

It is post-Civil War Spain and in 1950’s oppressive and very fascist Barcelona Ana Martí Noguer, a keen young journalist, is surprised to be assigned to work with the Police when wealthy socialite Mariona Sobrerroca is found murdered.

The story expands from a straight forward murder to an intriguing puzzle the leads to the city’s corrupt and ruthless power brokers.

This appears to be Sara Moliner’s first book and it is an excellent debut. However, it turns out that Sara Moliner is a nom de plume and is Rosa Ribas, who has written at least three other books and co-author Sabine Hofmann.

They really do create a very believable fascist Barcelona where violence and rumour abound. I did feel that some of the language didn’t appear to fit the period. For example the word “teenagers”, but on checking it appears to have been around longer than I thought.

The authors’ descriptions of the shady characters in the book ooze sleaze and depravity and their writing style gives real depth to the story.

Recommended reading for anyone wanting a different and intelligent crime thriller as well as those who are fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series and Rebecca Pawel’s Tejada series.