2012 second edition, 446 p.
I’m not a particularly keen reader of travel books, but as I’m going to be in Spain in the next few days, I decided to read this book which has gathered pretty good reviews. It’s written by a journalist who has lived in Spain for over twenty years, making him enough of an insider to understand what he is seeing, but enough of an outsider to have his attention attracted by the unfamiliar.
Throughout the book he refers to the ‘two Spains’ – the conservative, religious Spain and the outward-looking, liberal if not socialistic Spain – that still exist in Spain today. The first three chapters are about Franco and the Spanish Civil War and the general agreement to look the other way and leave well enough alone. After these first chapters I thought that the book was going to continue in this vein, but it became more journalistic and digressive. He moves around different regions of Spain (the Basque Region, Catalan district and Gallacia), as well as discussing childrearing practices and death rituals. There’s a good map and a good index, so it acts well as reference book. It’s fairly current, with a good discussion of the Madrid terrorist bombings, immigration and the economic recession following the global financial crisis that particularly affected Spain and Greece.
I won’t know until I’ve been there how useful any of this is going to be, and whether there will be resonances in what I see. Quite apart from the anticipation that the book has aroused, it was an interesting and entertaining read with a narrator that you feel you’d like to know.
My rating: 8/10
Read because: Voy a Espana!