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Destination Reads: The Best Books to Transport You to Spain

Posted on 24th August 2018 by Martha Greengrass

From Chris Stewart's bestselling adventures of building the Andalucian dream to J.H. Elliott's peerless history of the Spanish Empire and the sun-soaked intrigue of The Lemon Grove, here are our picks of the best reads set in or about Spain.

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The spellbinding novel that became an international phenomenon, The Shadow of the Wind revolves around a mysterious library of forgotten books and an elusive writer whose work offsets a literary manhunt in Barcelona. Immersive and beautifully atmospheric, this literary thriller of intertwining stories is fiction at its most mesmerising.
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Following his experiences as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War, the author brings to bear all the force of his humanity, passion and clarity, describing with bitter intensity the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode: the revolutionary euphoria of Barcelona, the courage of ordinary Spanish men and more.
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Chris, eternal optimist and itinerant sheep shearer, moves with his wife Ana to a mountain farm in Las Alpujarras, an oddball region in south of Spain. Misadventures gleefully unfold as Chris discovers that the owner has no intention of leaving and meets their neighbours, an engaging mix of peasant farmers and shepherds, travellers and ex-pats.
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1940: The Spanish Civil War is over, and Madrid lies ruined, its people starving, while the Germans continue their relentless march through Europe. In a vivid and haunting depiction of wartime Spain, Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom is an intimate and compelling tale which offers a remarkable sense of history unfolding, and the profound impact of impossible choices.
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The novel that made the literary icon’s name, Fiesta reeks of the macho, bohemian Spain of the interwar years and contains some of the best writing about bullfighting in twentieth century literature. Crisp, intense and unmistakably Hemingway, this is an enduringly great early work from a master craftsman.
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A deeply fascinating and informative history of an ancient and enigmatic people, this bravura volume illuminates the advances and achievements of the Basques, native inhabitants of a remote area of Northern Spain. With the same eye for quirky detail that enlivened his accounts of cod, milk and Havana, Kurlansky weaves a masterly tale of a fiercely independent ethnic group.
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A sweeping story of love and intrigue set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, Duenas’ novel criss-crosses the globe, but its passionate heart lies always in the land ravaged by Franco’s brutal regime. A paean to resilience and the authenticity of emotion, The Seamstress is a rich, endlessly rewarding coming of age tale.
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Sun. Desire. Obsession. An explosive, intelligent novel from the prize-winning author of Brass. A tense, sensuous story of a marriage ripped apart by desire and obsession, set in the Mallorcan summer holiday resort of Deia.
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Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading romances of chivalry that he determines to become a knight errant and pursue bold adventures, accompanied by his squire, the cunning Sancho Panza. As they roam the world together, the aging Quixote's fancy leads them wildly astray.
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The story of Spain's rise to greatness from its humble beginnings as one of the poorest and most marginal of European countries is a remarkable and dramatic one. Historian J.H. Elliott chronicles how with the marriage of Ferdinand & Isabella and the discovery of America, Spain took on a seemingly unstoppable dynamism that made it into the world's first global power.
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An extraordinary epic of love, family, and war set in the Basque town of Guernica before, during, and after its destruction by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War. Rich in the history of the region, the Red Baron, the Luftwaffe and even Picasso make appearances in Guernica as the fate of one family is traced through the early decades of the twentieth century.
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Before he was tragically cut down during the Civil War, Lorca was a playwright of sensuous genius and raw, primal passion. An archetypal story of doomed love and suffocating ritual infused with Lorca’s singular earthy poetry, Blood Wedding is arguably the greatest Spanish play of the twentieth century.
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Selected as the Sunday Times History Book of the Year for 2012, this is a meticulous work of scholarship from the foremost historian of 20th-century Spain. The culmination of more than a decade of research, The Spanish Holocaust seeks to reflect the intense horrors visited upon Spain during its ferocious civil war, the consequences of which still reverberate bitterly today.
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Spaniards are reputed to be amongst Europe's most forthright people. This apparent 'pact of forgetting' inspired writer Giles Tremlett to embark on a journey around Spain and its history. Tremlett's curiosity led him down some strange and colourful byroads, and brought him unexpected insights into the Spanish character.
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Santiago, a young shepherd living in the hills of Andalucia, feels that there is more to life than his humble home and his flock. One day he finds the courage to follow his dreams into distant lands, each step galvanised by the knowledge that he is following the right path: his own. The people he meets along the way, the things he sees and the wisdom he learns are life-changing.
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Award-winning author Javier Marias weaves a darkly thrilling tale of love, betrayal and lives played out in the unhappy shadow of history. He presents a study of the infinitely permeable boundaries between private and public selves, between observer and participant, between the deceptions we suffer from others and those we enact upon ourselves.
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Deliciously redolent of the backstreets and barrios of the hidden Spain, Nooteboom’s enticingly written and invitingly accessible history of this remarkable country is a true tour de force. Intimate in tone yet expansive in outlook, Roads to Santiago should be in every global traveller’s book collection.
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The untold inside story of how the best and most loved football team in the world came to redefine how the game is played. Starting with the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley this traces the team, the stars, the dressing room debates and the influence of the iconic coach Pep Guardiola.
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