July 18, 2009

Take Me Away to Spain

Take Me Away
As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:

This week we are visiting the country of Spain. Click on the titles of the books to go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Here is an easy to see map of Spain:
Click here to learn more about Spain.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Barcelona, 1945—A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax. When the boy searches for Carax's other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written. Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author's identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway's first bestselling novel, it is the story of a group of 'Lost Generation' Americans and Brits in the 1920s on a sojourn from Paris to Pamploma, Spain. The novel poignantly details their life as expatriates on Paris' Left Bank, and conveys the brutality of bullfighting in Spain. The novel established Hemingway as one of the great prose stylists of all time.

Spain...A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow
From Mario Batali, superstar chef and author of Molto Italiano and Italian Grill, comes an eating tour throughout Spain with his friend Gwyneth Paltrow. Spain...A Culinary Road Trip is the companion book to the prime-time public television series Spain...On The Road Again. The premise is simple: Mario Batali and Mark Bittman are single-minded, food-obsessed friends who are constantly on the lookout for the food, wine, and cooking that is unique to Spain--and in this series they will find it. Gwyneth Paltrow and the Spanish actress Claudia Bassols are eager to enjoy all the pleasures the country has to offer, and each pair will be lured into the worlds of the other. The foursome take the ultimate road trip adventure, showcasing the pleasures of Spain, the country's regional cuisine, art, history, and culture, as they've never been seen before. Hundreds of gorgeous and candid photos, anecdotes, and more than seventy recipes from Mario appear in this scrapbook of the dream vacation through Spain.

The Last Queen: A Novel by C.W. Gortner
The 1492 conquest of Granada makes for high adventure and royal intrigue in this second sparkling historical from Gortner (The Secret Lion). Spanish Princess Juana, 13, watches as her parents, King Fernando and Queen Isabel, unite Spain, vanquish Moors and marry their children off to foreign kingdoms for favorable alliances: Princess Catalina becomes first wife to Henry VIII; Princess Juana, who narrates, is shipped off to marry Philip of Flanders, heir to the Hapsburg Empire. Although Juana balks at leaving Spain for the north and a husband she has never met, their instant chemistry soon turns to love. Years and children later, Juana unexpectedly becomes next in line to the Spanish crown and must carefully navigate every step of the journey from Flanders to Spain, fearful of alienating husband or parents or both. Emotional and political tensions soar as Juana's loyalties are tested to their limits. Disturbing royal secrets and court manipulations wickedly twist this enthralling story, brilliantly told.

The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax
In her impressive debut, Romano-Lax creates the epic story of Feliu Delargo, an underprivileged child prodigy whose musical ability brings him into contact with world leaders, first-class artists and a life filled with loss and triumph. Their father killed in Cuba just before the Spanish-American War, Feliu, his three brothers and one sister manage a meager life in Campo Seco, a small Catalan town, while their strong-willed mother fends off suitors. At 14, Feliu and his mother travel to Barcelona, where a cello tutor agrees to take on Feliu as a student. Over the years, as Feliu establishes himself, he crosses path with Justo Al-Cerra, an egotistical, manipulative pianist, and their touring leads to an intertwining of lives that becomes more complicated when they encounter Aviva, a violinist with her own emotional damage. As the trio tour and Europe careens toward WWII, Romano-Lax weaves into the narrative historical figures from Spanish royalty to Franco and Hitler, giving Feliu the opportunity to ponder the roles of morality in art and art in politics.

The Ignorance of Blood by Robert Wilson
In Wilson's insightful fourth and final Javier Falcón novel (after The Hidden Assassins), the intrepid Spanish homicide detective finds himself overwhelmed with the pressures of personal and professional entanglements. After a suitcase is recovered from a car accident containing several million euros and discs showing video footage of local council people in compromising positions, Falcón begins piecing together a vast international conspiracy that involves not only the Russian mafia and Islamic extremist groups but also implicates his best friend, Yacoub Diouri, a spy for the Spanish government. When the young son of his lover, Consuelo Jiménez, is abducted, Falcón comes to some startling revelations about his career, his relationships and his future.

The Lost Diary of Don Juan: A Novel by Douglas Carlton Abrams
Set in the city of Seville during the reign of Philip II, at the end of the sixteenth century, this purported diary of Juan Tenario recounts his childhood raised by nuns in a convent, adolescent disillusionment, and escape to the city of Seville. There he becomes, first, a cat burglar, then the protege of the powerful Marquis de la Mota, who teaches him spying, swordplay, the appreciation of fine wine, and the seduction of women. The plot is lent tension by Tenario's increasingly complicated life: King Philip wants him to marry (someone, anyone); Don Ignacio, the head of Seville's Inquisition, wants him to burn; and the marquis plans to marry his only true love, Dona Ana. Abrams takes liberties with the social details of the time but treats historical occurrences with accuracy. Characters are stock, and the action is largely predictable. The resolution, however, has its surprises. A fast, suspenseful read.

Barcelona the Great Enchantress by Robert Hughes
In this pared-down version of his acclaimed Barcelona (1992), art critic Hughes traces Barcelona’s progress from a burgeoning port city to the booming Catalan capital that roughly 1.5 million people call home today. Hughes’s portrait chronologically flutters from one century to another, shedding light on the city’s cryptic history in a way very few non-Catalans can. Hughes treats the city as if it’s his own, and his critiques are justified and insightful, drawing on personal anecdotes, excerpts of Catalan manuscripts and anti-Castilian decrees. It’s not the details of cataclysmic events like the plague of 1348 or the bitter suffocation forced upon Cataluña by Franco that make Hughes’s book worthwhile, but rather the accounts of small events that transformed "one enormous ashtray, covered in a mantle of grime and grit" into what is now an affable, colorful, modern hub. The author poetically weaves politics, food, architecture, sport, myths and music into a striking depiction of the great Catalan seaport.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Hemingway and Carlos Ruiz Zafon have more books set in Spain. Do you know of books that take place in Spain that you want to share? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back next week for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up for the next three Take Me Away Saturday posts:
July 25: A visit with the Sioux people. The Sioux are a Native American and First Nations people.
August 1: A visit to the African country of Sierra Leone.
August 8: A visit to the country of India.

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:


  1. I hated The Sun Also Rises. Uhg. That book seriously tortured me in high school. :P

  2. Spain is such a gorgeous country. We were so fascinated with the architecture and of course the Prado & Guggenheim Museums. If anyone has an interest in the arts here are a few book suggestions.
    Life with Picasso by Francoise Gilot.
    The Prado Museum: Collection of Paintings.
    Gaudi: The Complete Buildings. For fiction how about Guernica by Dave Boling.

    I'd like to read that book with Mario Batale. The fruit and vegetables in Spain just tasted so much better. I don't know if it is the soil or they don't spray everything with pesticides or what the reason. I do know they don't put sulfites in their wine so you don't get a headache if you, ahem, maybe overindulge.
    I'm so glad to see your schedule for the next three weeks. I'm particularly interested in India and really looking forward to your posting. Another fabulous week, my dear, it's the highlight of Saturday blogging! Great job, as always.

  3. I love that you do this every week. I love to get new ideas for my TBR list.

  4. I found out recently that my mother has a copy of The Shadow of the Wind, so I'm going to borrow it soon! Barcelona the Enchantress also sounds fascinating.

  5. This is such a great feature. Thanks for posting all this info!

  6. I love books set in Spain. I have a book about Barcelona that i have been meaning to get to.

    I have an award for you, sorry I can't make it link:)


  7. I'm probably one of the last bloggers that haven't read Shadow of the Wind.

    Great post. I can't wait the Sioux one.

  8. What a fun idea! I just recently read Beth Kephart's Nothing But Ghosts, which isn't mainly set in Spain but there are some scenes in Barcelona. It was cool because the very next week I visited Barcelona. Pics are up on my blog!

  9. I've had The Spanish Bow in my library stack for months. One day...

  10. You definitely need to add some Arturo Perez-Reverte to this list ... Captain Alatriste for something set in old Spain or one of his suspense stories for something modern.

    And CJ Sansom's Winter in Madrid is a fantastic Franco-era spy novel.

  11. Thanks for all of the recommendations! I love it!

    heidenkind- Be thankful they did not have you read The Old Man and the Sea. I imagine you would be truly bored with that one. It is pretty slow. I am actually amazed I got through it. It is a good story, but I don't typically do slow.

  12. The Last Queen is calling to me and it's saying read me in Spain!!

  13. The Last Queen sounds great. Spain is yet ANOTHER place I would love to visit. One day I will get there.

  14. I really enjoyed The Spanish Bow. I can also recommend The Accordionist's Son by Bernardo Atxaga, Guernica by Dave Boling (reviewed), The Heretic by Miguel Delibes, and I've just started The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

  15. Highly recommend Guernica and anything by Carlos Ruiz Zafon...

    I also really liked 'Winter in Madrid' for a look at what life was like under Franco.

    If you are interested in more books set in Spain, I have a link here http://www.packabook.com/books-set-in-spain.html that might help.



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