Friday, November 28, 2008

Guest Book Review: Guernica

*Guest Review written by my friend Bonnie Findlay.*

Guernica by Dave Boling

Publishers Weekly: 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 Miren. Charismatic, beautiful and the best jota dancer around, Miren 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.

Bonnie Findlay's Review-

"The painting which I am presently working on will be called "Guernica". By means of it, I express my abhorrence of the race that has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death." -Pablo Picasso

I had mixed opinions about this book. Historical fiction is my favorite genre, but it was hard to get into this book at first. It was hard for me to relate to mostly male characters who had rough and tumble adventures, as well as switching the point of view to different characters with hard names to read and pronounce.

But at about page 200, I knew the characters fairly well...then the author wrote of the infamous bombing of Guernica and with horror I read his vivid, descriptive accounts of what happened to the town and some of the townspeople I had gotten to know, and the book came alive and was enthralling. His descriptions of the bombs and what they did-to people as well as buildings-reminded me of the movie "The Day After". I actually found myself getting choked up as I read of the destruction and death the bombing caused-and this actually happened in real life! I sympathized with the characters who survived and had to go on dealing with so much loss and sorrow. The three brothers and Miguel each dealt with their sorrow in their own ways.

I don't totally agree with the Publisher's Weekly review about forced historical cameos-Picasso made a painting of the bombing of Guernica that to me, fit right in with the story. After reading about the painting, I was curious enough to look up a picture of it online, which made the story all the more real for me. I DO agree with the Publisher's Weekly review about some plot twists that can be seen from a long way off-I did see one coming, but that was OK, because I didn't know HOW the author would make it all come together. I was glad to know there'd be a bit of happiness for the main characters at some point in the book.

This book did not have a happy ending realistically, but it did have a happy ending of sorts for the main characters. This book was not totally my style but for the most part it was a good read. In my opinion, this would be a book men might enjoy more than women. There are many adventures and predicaments the male characters get themselves into-the book at times reads like an adventure movie. This book got me curious enough to look up more info about the town of Guernica. It was a very sad event in European history. -Bonnie Findlay

*I want to thank my friend Bonnie Findlay for her wonderful review. This is her second review here and I enjoy having guest reviewers who can share different views and opinions. I didn't know about the background of Guernica and it was interesting to read about and you definitely need to check out the Picasso Painting, HERE!


  1. Thanks for the review. I have this one waiting to be read.

  2. Bonnie, it took me a while to get into this one too but I ended up being very glad, in the end, that I'd read it.


  3. I've heard/read very good things about this book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Bonnie F. :)


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