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Talking Location with author Sandra Danby – Andalucia

4th June 2018

#TalkingLocationWith…. Author Sandra Danby, who takes her readers to Málaga, the setting for her novel Connectedness.

author Sandra Danby

Pablo Picasso

When I told friends that Connectedness would be set in Málaga, the phrases ‘kiss me quick hat’ and ‘full English breakfast’ were thrown around. This made me feel first angry, then defensive, then sad. Because this view of Málaga is passé and untrue. So many people fly into the airport, head for the beaches and never visit the city. They are missing a treat.

I live an hour from Málaga so when I was planning Connectedness it seemed a natural choice of setting. The fact that Pablo Picasso was born there clinched it. He doesn’t appear personally in the novel but is an influence on key character Justine who studies art in the city.

Researching Málaga meant walking the streets and wondering ‘what if’. Málaga is now a city of art with the Museo Picasso, CeAC, Centre Pompidou, Museo Carmen Thyssen and Museo Ruso but I had to factor in the passing of time. Justine arrives in Málaga in 1982; a very different city from today. The Museo Picasso did not exist, Picasso’s birthplace was a ruin. Spain was adjusting to democratic government after the rule of General Franco. Tourism to the Costa del Sol was new. So in my mind I stripped back the city and re-imagined it as Justine would see it.

Centre Pompidou

I narrowed my choice of settings to Justine’s apartment on the Plaza de la Merced; the places she meets boyfriend Federico [the Plaza del Obispo and the Paseo del Parque]; the cathedral where she sells her art; El Palo, a small fishing village where she endures a difficult lunch; and mountain-top village Istán. I discovered that photographs were no replacement for actually going to the location, sitting, watching and absorbing.

author Sandra Danby

Plaza del Obispo, Malaga, the cafe where Justine meets Federico

Non-art things to see and do in Málaga

On a May evening each year, Málaga throws an ’open door’ party. During La Noche en Blanco there is free entry at the city’s museums and galleries, everyone takes to the streets until the early hours.

Holy Week, or Semana Santa, is the annual tribute of the Passion of Jesus Christ celebrated by Catholic religious brotherhoods and fraternities that perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of Lent.In Málaga spontaneous flamenco verses are often sung during processions.

Istan, looking down to the lake

Málaga is an easy city to walk around but get your bearings first by taking an open-top bus tour. Download MálagaTurismos leaflets including beaches, nature, museums, Holy Week, learning Spanish, and things to see in the city.

If you love sport, go to a football match. Matches at Málaga CF take place in the evenings and the atmosphere is fantastic.

5 Great Books set in Andalucía

Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucía by Penelope Chetwode

Two middle-aged ladies, one Penelope Chetworth, the other her 12-year old mare La Marquesa, explored the high sierra north of Granada in 1961. Together the travellers brought out the best in their Spanish hosts and Chetwode’s compelling account – warm, witty and candid – is informed by her infectious personal fascination for horses, religion and Spain.

South from Granada by Gerald Brenan

In South from Granada, Brenan chose to live in the small village of Yegen, in the mountains near Granada, well inland and a world away from the larger Andalucian towns. He rented an old home, and some characters who came with it, and walked the length and breadth of the land. An isolated village, he ponders the advance of the modern age.

Andalus by Jason Webster

As Islam and the West prepare to clash once again, Jason Webster embarks on a quest to discover Spain’s hidden Moorish legacy and lift the lid on a country once forged by both Muslims and Christians. He meets Zine, a young illegal immigrant from Morocco, a twenty-first century Moor, lured over with the promise of a job but exploited as a slave labourer on a fruit farm. Jason’s life is threatened as he investigates the agricultural gulag, Zine rescues him, and the unlikely pair of writer and desperado take off on a rollercoaster ride through Andalucía.

Driving over Lemons by Chris Stewart

Chris Stewart has been a sheep shearer and a drummer for Genesis, and decided he wanted to relocate to the Sierra Nevada. His book chronicles his adventures – the terrain and the locals – doing up his ramshackle house. Ada, his wife, is the voice of certainty, and no nonsense and as a couple they provide the perfect counterbalance in this witty and insightful account.

Death’s Other Kingdom by Gamel Woolsey

A heart-rending account of a Spanish village torn apart by the coming of the Civil War – A rare humanist and female voice on a war which has otherwise been colonised by political commentary and male voices. A balance to the cruelty of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia – Woolsey, a poet, was married to Gerald Brenan, one of the Bloomsbury set who with the publication of South from Grenada became the English authority on Spain – New afterword by Michael Jacobs, author of The Factory of Light and the current authority on Andalucia – Perfect backlist tie-in to the current wave of highly popular Spanish travel writing

About ‘Connectedness’


Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.

About the ‘Identity Detective’ series

Rose Haldane reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectednessis the story of a birth mother and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz. Read an extract of Ignoring Gravity and of Connectedness.

Sandra Danby

Thank you to Sandra for sharing her insights into this beautiful part of the world. She is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and via her Notes on a Spanish Valley blog and website

Photos © Sandra Danby

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  1. User: Sandra Danby

    Posted on: 07/06/2018 at 8:24 am

    Thanks for the opportunity to share the beauty of Malaga! I hope it tempts your readers to visit. SD