Book Review: The Return, Victoria Hislop

This is the second time that I’ve read The Return by Victoria Hislop. I really enjoyed this historical fiction novel and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Spainish Civil War or flamenco.

Just like ‘Winter in Madrid,’ the book left me asking questions about the Civil War and how people of the same country were capable of doing such horrid acts. For me, it’s beyond comprehension how family members grassed on each other and sent their own blood to their death.

It’s also barbaric how Franco went about becoming such a power in Spain and killing innocent people for having different views to him. I can’t get my head round how his dictatorship led to so much violence and death. Anyway, rant over, here’s more about the book.

Great setting for a historical novel. Photo by ferlomu

Great setting for a historical novel.
Photo by ferlomu

The Plot

As usual with my book reviews I tend not to go into much detail for fear of giving too much away, but it’s about a woman called Sonia who goes on a flamenco holiday to Granada with a friend to escape her drunk husband. While there she becomes more involved in the world of flamenco and meets an elderly waiter who begins to tell her about life during the Civil War.

Victoria switches from the viewpoint of Sonia and also becomes a narrator back in the Civil War, as if told by the voice of the waiter, explaining the emotional lives of a Spanish family.

There are a number of sub plots and twists, which makes for excellent reading.

Why would I recommend it?

Generally I enjoyed how Victoria wrote. I loved the twisting plot and detailed character descriptions. I really felt for Sonia, and also several characters in the Spanish family, especially the mother and daughter. Victoria must have done a lot of research to find out about certain events and she tied in the story splendidly.

I also enjoyed the way she added a sense of romance to the novel, both with Sonia and the family in the war. I find these days that romance always seems to be in the air, which is one reason why I’m writing my novel at the moment. It shows how important love is in the world and the affect it can have on people, in both good and bad ways.

Flamenco is an exciting aspect of the book as well and Victoria shows how this world is of great influence in Spain. She gives some detailed descriptions of flamenco performances and really shows you how it gave hope to people back during the war.

What to watch out for

One thing that did sway me from time to time was the way she used certain vocabulary of a higher level when she could have said it much simpler. It was as if she was showing off at times by using more intellectual words when she could have kept it down a tad. Nothing major though.

The Author

Victoria Hislop lives in Kent with her two children and has written several other books. Her first novel, The Island, has sold over one million copies and was number one in the Sunday Times charts for eight weeks. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s about a Greek family’s life in the 2nd World War.

Her more recent book, The Thread, is also set in Greece but is more of a saga set over a hundred years.

Victoria has also written several short stories, one of which, Aflame in Athens, she donated to Oxfam’s “Ox-Tales” project. She also writes travel articles. You can check out her official website here.

Have you read The Return, or any of her novels? What did you think?

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Return, Victoria Hislop

  1. Have not been reading much of late, sounds like an interesting potential option. I know nothing about the civil war down there, family members informing on each other seems unthinkable, mind you the main witness against the Kray’s at their trail was their own first cousin. I just sent a long reply to your excellent article on the ex pat magazine, sadly I do not think it will ever get to you, I do not have Facebook or twitter these days and it did seem like they would not let me leave a comment on your article without sharing it, I must re visit and try again. Anyway I enjoyed it all very much having to be false with your neighbor’s in Seville and the other great nuggets including your trips to buy jonnies at the supermarket, and I very much look forwards to your next installment on the ex pat magazine, it was your most awesome piece so far and I have enjoyed all your previous. I am not sure where to start about the Spanish civil war, may just find a very brief idiots guide type history and then perhaps a book like this will make sense to me. History scares me somewhat, I worry it will all kick off in Ukraine and or the mid east, and I will be stuck here in Belfast forever with my raincoat and umbrella. If Europe is going to disintegrate would prefer to be on a Greek Island or Majorca when it starts, much prefer the prospect of sunburn than frostbite. Hope you and the family are all well down there in the Oven. I am trying to be friendly with a Spanish lady called Sonia myself, a Madrid lady one of the many economic migrants here in Belfast, she hates it here but like all the other Spanish here right now she seems to be resigned to staying here for many years to come. If I can get some more information might be some material in it for you, impossible to miss the ever increasing numbers of Spanish residents living up here now, still have not met one from Sevilla mind you, seems the ones here all from Barcelona and Zaragoza. They tell me they prefer Dublin but the really skint ones can only come here, not civil war drama but hard to ignore their plight nonetheless. You must be resourceful and smart to be able to make a living in Spain, I had an interview recently with Vaughan but seems they did not rate me have not heard back, anyway teacher reviews are really scary so maybe better to leave them alone, they interviewed me in Dublin so only a day wasted and as winter approaches here I am reaching for the top shelf and the really heavy coats. Thanks for keeping me on your mailing list and I enjoy your work very much as always.

    1. Slack slack slack is the word to describe my blogging and replying to comments. Sorry mate, been hectic back in England and also on hols down in chavy Benalmedena in Malaga, but back in the routine now and finally time to reply to comments. I still have that blog about what happened to you in Barcelona to write about, a few things have happened to me recently and have an idea along the lines of how foreigners get treated in Spain, could be an intense one. Glad you liked my piece on the expat magazine. Yeah seems to be getting lots of reads but not many comments, not sure why. Interesting there are a lot of Spanish people in Ireland, guess it’s a lot more lucrative than here at the moment. Found out this week that both my brother-in-laws have been laid off! Yeah I would steer clear of Vaughan, sounds a bit mental and also heard bad things about them. So are you looking for a TEFL job now then? Is that the top shelf in the pub or newsagents? haha. Thanks for writing as ever, number one fan!

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