“One of the most impressive books I have read”
Review by Sheila Grant
This sweeping saga of love and war gripped me from start to finish and is one of the most impressive books I have read.
In 1938, the Spanish Civil war is not so much ending as petering out, leaving the population and the country bereft of comfort or joy, corrupted by the horrors of a country divided within itself. Thousands of refugees roam the border of Spain, refused solace; destitute individuals and families, bereft with no knowledge of the whereabouts or condition of those they love.
Victor and Roser Dalmau are two such, fortunate to be able to board the Winnipeg, a ship commissioned by the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, that transported 2000 refugees to Chile. Here was their chance of a new life in South America. The Chilean welcome was mixed but Victor and Roser were strong and united at a time when hope was almost nonexistent. The central part of the book concentrates on the inspiring story of their stoicism and determination to face adversity and succeed in their new country. Memories of what they had lost never left them, nor did the anxiety of those from home they were separated. Life was no bed of roses but even if a little of what they endured is typical, it is still humbling and very moving. They left their home but not their hearts and they never gave up on hope.
The novel is constructed with tremendous skill, with references to events in Spain interwoven with tales from those who lived through these times. The addition of careful research adds an intensity and reality to what is classed as fiction but is often based on fact. This is a page turner with all the ingredients that make it one the reader will enjoy and embrace, highlighting the fact that in war there are no winners.
Peopled by finely drawn clear-cut characters across the moral spectrum, readers cannot fail to relate and sympathise with many who have the ability to move this reader to tears. Written in tight flowing prose, the reader is drawn into this complex book from the start.
Despite strife being at the core, this not a depressing book – rather, it is an uplifting and moving story of love and loyalty. This is superb literary fiction. The historical strain throughout is fascinating, raising many questions, whetting my interest to discover more about the links between Spain and South America. An outstanding book, telling a rattling good tale, leaving an indelible mark in this reader’s mind for a very long time. For me this was an introduction to an award-winning writer and I cannot wait to read another of her books.
5* Individual Read, 5* Group Read
Bloomsbury Publishing, March 7 2021