I've long been a fan of historical fiction. But the twist, for me, has always meant that the history had to be of the ethnic variety. In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez, is one of my favorites. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway, does not ring my chimes one bit.
Hence, I approached The Return, by Victoria Hislop, with no small amount of trepidation. I must say, however, that I was pleasantly surprised. Although the initial premise is a tad shaky, Hislop ends up manipulating her story successfully amid the backdrop of the gruesome Spanish Civil War and, I'm pleased to report, she pulls it off.
The interwoven stories of the British PR exec Sonia, who travels to Granada, Spain, to discover herself in the traditions of the area, and the Ramirez family, who lived through the tragedies of the war, speak of politics, kin and the reasons these themes often suffer a fragile coexistence.
Although I'm not a student of Spanish history, Hislop's research, and most of her story, ring true to me. Take one part romance, two parts conflict, and set the tale between generations in the shadow of the Alhambra, Granada's Moorish cornerstone, and you have The Return, quite a viable read.
The story, especially once it jumps to the tale of La Familia Ramirez, is both believable and beautiful. I found myself immersed both in the literal, bloody conflict and the main characters' emotional upheavals.
The Return is Hislop's second foray into the publishing world. Now I'm looking forward to checking out The Island, her freshman effort. That 2007 novel, set in Crete, became an international bestseller. After reading The Return, it's not difficult to understand why.
Editor's Note: Mrs. Scribe reviewed The Return at the behest of TLC Book Tours. While she received a gratis copy of the novel, her opinions are her own.