“Jack took in every detail, because he knew, before she had spoken, this was the woman he’d love.”The Spanish Girl, by Jules Hayes
“The Spanish Girl” by Jules Hayes is the first I’ve read by this author (whose first book, “The Walls We Build”, was published in 2020), and the first as part of the Orion Dash Club. What a great place to start!
The novel is set across two time periods: 1937, against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, and 1976, not long after the death of General Franco, leader of the Nationalists in that conflict, who were ultimately victorious in 1939. In 1976 we meet journalist Isabella, and it’s not long before she finds that the story she’s working on about the current political turmoil in Spain has roots in her own past, the mystery surrounding the fate of her mother Sofia, and the identity of her father.
In 1937 we follow Jack – an idealistic young Englishman who travels to Spain to join up with the Republican fighters, and also to search for his brother Joe – missing following the Battle of Jarama and feared dead by his family and pregnant fiancée Alice. In Spain he meets a cast of memorable characters, including the eponymous Spanish girl, Sofia. What will be their fate in a world where the civil war is pitting brother against brother, friend against friend? And will Isabella be able to untangle the ramifications that are still playing out in the 70s, and finally get to the bottom of her own personal history?
As is generally the case for me, I find it far easier to connect with a period of history when reading fiction set at that time than I do reading non-fiction accounts, and Hayes does an excellent job of portraying the motivations and emotions of the characters caught up in such a complicated and turbulent period. The characters, particularly of Isabella, Sofia and Jack, really jumped off the page, with the author wonderfully conveying the depths of their emotions and their deeply held convictions about the conflict.
I found the structure of the book, moving between the time periods, to be very effective, revealing the plot layer by layer from the points of view of the various protagonists. The story encompasses so many themes – love of a partner, love of family, loss, loneliness, betrayal and loyalty. This is an excellent book, and one I’d highly recommend.
“The Spanish Girl” was released in the UK on 24th June 2021. Many thanks to NetGalley, Orion Dash and of course the author for providing an ebook copy.