2 Jun 2009

The Return.

The Return By Victoria Hislop.

Beneath the majestic towers of the Alhambra, Granada's cobbled streets resonate with music and secrets. Sonia Cameron knows nothing of the city's shocking past; she is here to dance. But in a quiet cafe, a chance conversation and an intriguing collection of old photographs draw her into the extraordinary tale of Spain's devastating civil war.

Seventy years earlier, the cafe is home to the close-knit Ramirez family. In 1936, an army coup led by Franco shatters the country's fragile peace, and in the heart of Granada the family witness the worst atrocities of the conflict. Divided by politics and tragedy, everyone must take a side, fighting a personal battle as Spain rips itself apart.

The Return, another epic family based saga, is like the author's debut novel, The Island, in that the adventure starts off with a woman (Sonia) finding an old photograph and setting off to discover the story behind it. Sadly though it is not as good and has a weak, predictable ending which entails the reader having to suspend disbelief.

Set in both the present but mainly the 1930's the story, narrated by Miguel, concentrates largely on the effects that the civil war has on the various members of the Ramirez family and then, ultimately, with the evacuation of Mercedes on board the Habana, how refugees were received by Europe at that time. The novel is interesting in that it is told through the eyes of several different characters, informative, full of passion and love both lost and found as well as moving, tragic and, at times, quite horrific but the ending, sad to say, slightly spoilt this otherwise thoroughly enjoyable read.

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