Book Review: Guernica by Dave Boling

Title: Guernica
Author: Dave Boling
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher

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.

For more information on Guernica, visit the Guernica Peace Museum. You can view the painting at Wikipedia.

(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.)

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16 Responses to Book Review: Guernica by Dave Boling

  1. Anna says:

    I won a copy of this book awhile back, and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet. It sounds powerful and fascinating. I hope it’s okay to link to this post on the WWII book reviews page on War Through the Generations.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Review: Song of Napalm by Bruce Weigl =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Anna – yes, it’s definitely okay to link it – and I hope you get a chance to read it soon.

  2. Serena
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit

    Sounds like a great book. I wish I could get my hands on this one.
    .-= Serena´s last blog ..Chow Hounds by Ernie Ward, DVM =-.

  3. It’s been a long time since I’ve read any of Leon Uris’s work, but I do love it. You’ve made this book sound wonderful!

  4. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I have this book on my shelves, and plan to read it hopefully this year. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Behind You – Jacqueline Woodson =-.

  5. Aarti says:

    When I saw this title, I thought it would be about the Spanish Civil War, not about WWII. Have you heard of the famous painting Guernica? It is by Picasso and is massive in the Prado museum in Madrid and is really very emotional.
    .-= Aarti´s last blog ..With Reverent Hands: Call it Sleep =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Aarti – yes, PIcasso’s painting of Guernica is a subplot in the book. I have seen pictures of the painting – and after knowing the inspiration, it is even more moving.

  6. heidenkind says:

    I’m disappointed it’s not about Picasso.
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Tasha – there is a subplot about Picasso painting Guernica – does that count?

  7. Dave Boling says:

    Hey, CarrieK,

    Thanks so much for the kind and thoughtful review! Glad you liked it. And thanks for telling others about it. As for “further books” … I’m working on another piece of historical fiction set in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War.


    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Dave – thanks for stopping by – I look forward to reading your next book.

  8. Jen-jen says:

    I just loved this book.

  9. Jen-jen says:

    This book has opened up a whole chapter of history to me which I knew nothing about, I am ashamed to admit. This summer I visited Bilbao and crossed the Pyrenees and so immediately I felt connected to the setting of the book, which has touched my emotions deeply-laughter, delight, fear and terror have kept me reading late into the night. I felt that I knew the family members so well, and I almost grieved as I knew they were to be destroyed in the second half of the book. I loved the whole episode of Dodo rescuing Miguel and Charlie from the prison towards the end-amazing!! I have spent the last 3 years learning Spanish and have been rewarded for my efforts by being totally mesmerised and absorbed by all Spanish related history and literature-and although this book centres on the Basque country it has filled me with a greater appreciation for that part of the world so intertwined with Spain. I have since looked out old film and the reporting of the bombing of Guernica, which is very distressing,and have a deepened appreciation of Picasso’s masterpiece, which before did not make much sense to me. Thank you again for your wonderful book Dave Boling