Five Novels Set in Spain

Because despite our best efforts, just doing books set in Mallorca was very hard. So here are our five favourite novels set in Spain, inspired by one of our May book group picks, The Rocks by Peter Nichols. As ever, tweet us with books you think we’ve missed – @CBBookGroup. Let’s dive in…

1. The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

Okay, this one is set in Mallorca, and is one of our favourite intelligent beach reads. The Lemon Grove is a novel replete with lust and tension – Jenn, a woman approaching middle age, is on holiday with her husband, step-daughter and step-daughter’s boyfriend, Nathan. So begins an illicit longing on Jenn’s part, as she struggles to navigate the volatile set of relationships that have suddenly arisen in their tight family group: her step-daughter’s burgeoning sexuality, her husband’s secret, causing stress on his part, combined with Nathan’s ripe masculinity cause Jenn to act in a way you know is going to end in disaster, but feels somehow inevitable. It’s a satisfying and finely observed novel set against the backdrop of a sweltering summer.

 2. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Though it’s not entirely set in Spain, the bull fighting in this iconic novel, which established Hemingway as one of the greats, makes it one that we simply couldn’t miss off.  Protagonist Jake Barnes, an ex-pat living in Paris, is a journalist who’s been wounded in WW1. However, what we’re most interested in is his travel to Spain where he and his  friends go to Pamplona to watch the bull fighting in some of the most recognisable passages in American literature (we think, anyway). Yes, Hemingway isn’t the easiest writer of all  time, but this straight talking American novel is filled with some wonderful quotes, and scenes which will make you want to jump on a plane and head to the nearest Spanish bar.

3. Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom

We feel like it’s fitting to put this book after Hemingway, as Sansom’s writing seems to channel an earlier style, akin to Hemingway, Greene or even, in places, Maugham. Set in 1940’s (you guessed it) Madrid, it’s a thriller with heart – a tense, supremely well written novel that charts the fates of a tangle of characters: Harry Brett, a British spy; Sandy Forsyth, an old school friend of Harry upon whom Harry is sent to spy, due to his involvement with the Fascists; Bernie Piper, presumed dead by everyone but Sandy’s ‘wife’, Barbara, who insists he is alive; and Sofia, Harry’s Spanish lover. Leading to a climactic ending, this is a clever and quietly compelling read.

 4. The Return by Victoria Hislop

A classic time slip novel, a genre in which Hislop excels, this romantic but fiercely researched novel is set in Granada, Spain, both in the present day and during the Spanish Civil  War. Sonia Cameron, a middle aged woman from England, has travelled to Granada to pursue her new found love of salsa, following the discovery of old pictures of her mother in  Spain. A parallel story emerges once Sonia reaches Spain – that of the Ramirez family during the 1930’s. Love stories, passionate flamenco dancing, the trials of bull fighting: it’s  all here in a novel of family and war which asks nothing more of the reader than to enjoy it.

5. The White Goddess: An Encounter by Simon GoughThe cover of 'The White Goddess: An Encounter' by Simon Gough.

Is this a novel? Is it a memoir? Is it something else altogether? These are questions you’ll ask yourself repeatedly as you read – perhaps ‘experience’ is a better word – The White Goddess. The book is predominantly a telling of Gough’s interactions with his great uncle (or rather, grand uncle: ‘Great is for steamships and railway lines, don’t you think? Grand is for fathers and uncles, and Russian dukes, of course!’), Robert Graves, from whom’s book this one takes its title. A young Simon’s experiences in Deia, Mallorca, echo those of characters Luca and Aegina in The Rocks, as he encounters Graves for the first time aged 11 in the bohemian paradise. You can almost see Lulu there…

 

The Rocks by Peter Nichols is published by Quercus Books in hardback, and will be available in paperback on July 2nd.

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Our May Books of the Month

Welcome all to the fifth month of our book group! This month we’ve picked two family dramas, spanning East Germany, the island of Mallorca and Tamworth. The first is a darkly comic love story with a twist, the other a mother-daughter tale of belief, doubt and loss of innocence – both guaranteed to get you thinking.

Look out for more exclusive blogs about both books over the coming weeks – not only from us but from the authors, editors and agents.

 

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

Set on the idyllic island of Mallorca, this is a double love story told in reverse.

Opening in 2005 with a dramatic event that appears to seal the mystery of two lives, the story moves backwards in time, unravelling over sixty years, amid the olive groves and bars, the boats and poolside parties, the lives and relationships of two intertwined families within an expat community of endearing and flawed characters.

As one story is revealed, another, sweeter one – a love story of a couple from the younger generation – arises in the wake of their elder’s failures.

The Rocks is a darkly comic, bittersweet, ultimately heart-breaking novel that slips back in time to reveal a shocking incident that marked and altered these lives for ever.

Follow Peter on Twitter @NicholsRocksThe Rocks will be published in the US by Riverhead Books on 26th May 2015, and will be published in paperback in the UK by Quercus on 2nd July 2015 (we love the hardback cover, but check out that paperback jacket!).

 

Motherland by Jo McMillan

It is 1978, Jess is thirteen and she already has a reputation – as the daughter of the only communist in town. But then, it’s in the blood. The Mitchells have been in the Party since the Party began.

Jess and her mother Eleanor struggle to sell socialism to Tamworth – a sleepy Midlands town that just doesn’t want to know. So when Eleanor is invited to spend a summer teaching in East Germany, she and Jess leap at the chance to see what the future looks like. On the other side of the Iron Curtain they turn from villains into heroes. And when Eleanor meets widower Peter and his daughter, a new, more peaceful life seems possible.

But the Cold War has no time for love and soon the trouble begins. Peter is dispatched for two years of solidarity work in Laos. Friends become enemies, and Jess discovers how easy it is to switch sides, and how sides can be switched for you, sometimes without you even knowing.

Motherland is a tragi-comic portrait of a childhood overcome with belief. It’s about loss of faith and loss of innocence, and what it’s like to grow up on the losing side of history.

Follow Jo on Twitter at @JoMcmillan, and check out her website, www.jomcmillan.comMotherland will be published in the UK by John Murray on 2nd July 2015.