Guernica is an outstanding novel, and the fact that it is Dave Boling’s first is truly remarkable. I have read a lot about World War II – both fiction and nonfiction, and yet I had never heard Guernica’s story before. In the run-up to World War II, the Nazis were helping General Franco take over Spain. One of Franco’s goals was to rid Spain of the Basque culture. The Nazis saw an opportunity to align themselves with Franco and, at the same time, perform an experiment in total warfare in order to prepare for the coming war.
On April 26, 1937, the Luftwaffe “Condor Legion” bombarded the Basque town of Guernica. They dropped bomb after bomb, and then fighter planes swooped down and shot down any survivors, even following people into fields and shooting them down. Men, women, children, the elderly – the Nazis did not discriminate. The results were devastating – entire families wiped out, hundreds killed, even more maimed and disabled for life.
I keep thinking that I understand the extent of the atrocities the Nazis perpetrated on the human race, but then another incident of inexplicable evil and horror comes to my attention. The magnitude of the atrocities are inconceivable, truly The Devil’s Arithmetic, as Jane Yolen so aptly titled her YA novel of the holocaust.
Boling is a natural as a writer of historical fiction, as he introduces characters that live and breathe on the pages of his book. Justo and Mariangeles; their daughter Miren; Miguel and Dodo, the fisherman’s sons; the blind soapmaker Alaia; Father Xabier, Justo’s brother and an advisor to Spain’s beleaguered President Aguirre – all of these people bring the events of history to life and make the devastation of Guernica personal. As Boling tells the story of Guernica and her people, he also tells the story of human suffering, heroism, and amazing fortitude. The Basque culture is portrayed in all its beauty, and the countryside of Spain is described so well that you can see, hear, taste, and smell it.
One of my favorite authors of historical fiction is Leon Uris. Boling’s writing style reminds me of Uris in Trinity – one of my all-time favorite books. The fact that I thought of Uris as I was reading Guernica is high praise indeed. I will be eagerly watching for any further books from Dave Boling.
(Disclosure: Guernica was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of review. The above link is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on the link and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small commission.)