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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Department of Book Reports: Guernica

In Guernica (Bloomsbury $15.00), Dave Boling has written a fine, sobering. and engrossing account of the lives of those people who live in or near one of the most revered places of the Basque people. The story is centered on the lives of the Ansotegui brothers, who are orphaned at an early age. Justo grows up to become the "strongest" man in Guernica, well-respected among the townsfolk; Josepe takes up fishing in the Bay of Biscay; and baby Xabier becomes Father Xabier.

In 1935 one Miguel Navarro, avoiding arrest after an encounter with the Guardia Civil, comes to Guernica, where he meets, courts and marries Justo's daughter, his only child, Miren, famed for her dancing. Together they begin a family. In the meantime, of course, the Spanish Civil War begins. The Basques, given some autonomy, and with an aversion to the Fascists, side with the Spanish Government. The characters try to lead normal lives, but the war moves closer. Food becomes scarce. And the Fascists move closer and closer, aiming to take the port of Bilbao. Guernica itself is of no military importance. But it does provide the Fascist's ally, the German Luftwaffe to indulge in what Winston Churchill called " experimental horror". On April 26th, 1937, Wolfram von Richtohofen's Condor Legion made its bombing raid over Guernica, devastating the town and immortalized in the famous mural of Pablo Picasso. The lives of Guernica's survivors are forever changed. And there seems to be little hope left.

Boling gives a splendid picture of the Basque people. Their lives may seem simple at a glance, but they live lives of great passion and with verve and nuance. The minor characters are well-imagined and provide a fine background to the story. The reader feels he knows this town and these people, and their tragedies give us the right amount of pity and terror. Guernica is one of the better novels I have read in a long while, and it is well worth your while to read it, especially if you like family sagas in historical settings.
Here's a video from one of those fine independent bookstores we always mention, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo. Catch their blog for pairings of books and appropriate beers, and follow them on twitter @LIBERTYBAYBOOKS.

Guernica is available at Jackson Street Books and other fine Independent bookstores.As always, books ordered here will have a freebie publishers Advance Reading Copy included as a thank you to our blogosphere friends.

On a side note, I wanted to point out the long-time Jesus' General commenter, Dave von Ebers, has begun a new blog, The Corner Tavern, which you can find here: There is already a lot of good stuff on it. Enjoy!


  1. Dear Seattle Dan and Tammy:

    I suppose that you are aware by now (news travels at the speed of sound over the intertubez!) that my fine book, "Al Frescoe Dining With The Donners--The Third White Meat" was ready to go into print when it was discovered that Mr. Frescoe was actually Hmnibousouqtani al Frescazerocal, the dreaded mooslim terrarist. I am more than somewhat embarassed that neither I or my editors (yes, the process had a very high burn rate where people who actually, like, y'know, understand how to write complete sentences were concerned) had tumbled to this.

    So, it looks like it's back to the drawing board to brainstorm how to uncontretemps this fiasco. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that the term "Al Fresco" according to some foodsnob of my acquaintance actually means something in eyetalian--who knew!

    We're gonna have to take the book apart and reassemble it. There will be a much heavier emphasis on "outdoor cookery" and bar-b-que. In some ways it will make things easier for the test kitchen folks, as you can get a whole lot bigger "long pig" on a pole over a firepit than you ever could stuff into a wall oven. And the cleanup is a snap.

    Hey, great news about Counsellor von Ebers--he's gonna be pissed that you told ME, though!

  2. Dano – thanks so much for the props. I’m having fun with the new blog.

    And Demo – you know you’re welcome any time!


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.