From Goodreads: “Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.“
Wow what an emotional roller-coaster of a book! I read this book through The Pigeonhole, a free online book club, reading it with other readers on the web. It was split into 12 parts, called staves, that I read through the nifty Pigeonhole app.
Where do I start? This book instantly gripped me, even though I could only read it in segments over the course of 12 days. I loved the main characters Daniel Matheson, the son of an Texas oil tycoon and Ana, a local girl working at the Hilton hotel where Daniel and his parents are staying.
Daniel aspires to be a photo journalist, but his parents, particularly his father, want him to be part of the oil business back in Texas. Daniel brings his camera and film with him to Madrid, in the hope that he’ll get some eye-catching photographs for an important photographic competition. He hopes it will show his parents how serious he is about being a professional photographer. Unbeknownst to him, Daniel is about to embark on a unforgettable photographic journey during his short stay in Madrid.
Ana meanwhile, comes from a desperately poor family, victims of Franco’s brutal regime, struggling to survive on the pittance her and her siblings make. Fortunately she works at the prestigious Hilton hotel in Madrid where she hopes to get an important promotion to bolster her family’s struggling finances. Ana is assigned to Daniel and his parents as a sort of personal assistant, to make their stay at the Hilton as pleasant as possible.
I got caught up in this book right from the beginning, swept away by the historical and geographical setting. I knew a bit about the Spanish Civil War, but next to nothing about Franco’s brutal dictatorship that followed it. I was shocked, disgusted and angry whilst reading this, and desperately hoped something good would come out of it for the Daniel and Ana and their families.
This is definitely my favourite book of 2019 and one I highly recommend especially for lovers of historical fiction.