Viva la Convivencia and Visitations From the Past!

  • Book: Zahara and the Lost Books of Light
  • Location: Seattle, Spain
  • Author: Joyce Yarrow

Review Author: jimmetzner

Location

Content

Brace yourself for a deep dive into the dark side of Spanish history, from the Inquisition to Franco. All seen through the eyes of a feisty contemporary heroine, Alienor Crespo and a posse of her ancestors. Author Joyce Yarrow has solved the conundrum of time travel with a simple, elegant and entirely believable bit of artifice. Alienor is gifted with vijitas, where she is whisked back in time, experiencing key moments in the lives of her female forebears. More often than not, it’s a moment of crisis, escaping from the Nazis, inquisitors, or Franco’s Guardia. There is also a glimpse of a Golden Age, La Convivencia, “the Co-existence”, where prior to 1492, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony.
Alienor, an American of Sephardic descent, has come to Spain to get citizenship papers, a right granted for a limited time to Sephardics. She ends up getting involved with a secret society entrusted with protecting a priceless library of ancient books. In the process, Alienor shows she’s every bit as brave and resourceful as her ancestors. As the novel unfolds, the past and present intertwine; old hatreds resurface with deadly results. There is a rather large cast of characters spanning centuries. Alienor’s genealogy and a list of characters helps, but in the end I stopped worrying about specific identities and let the action carry me along. Cliff hangers and clever tactics abound, blended with enough history to make me want to know more about Spain. Ms. Yarrow has clearly done her homework, and the details which color the narrative add to the realism of her vijitas. All in all, an exciting tale, weaving the past and present on an adventurous journey of discovery.

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