Ten great books set in Spain

25th March 2018

Ten great books set in Spain

Spain is the latest country for us to visit in our ‘Ten great books set in…’ series. ‘Ten great books set in Spain’. For many Spain is a destination for a beach holiday… but it is so much more. There are fantastic cities – think of Madrid, Barcelona, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Santander, and Valencia – and a country that is absolutely steeped in history, from the invading Moors from North Africa, through the Middle Ages and the colonial era, and on to the Spanish Civil War and Franco.

Ten great books set in Spain

Cordoba: courtesy TalkToTim

The books below are some of those most highly rated by members of the TripFiction community.

1. Alberto’s Lost Birthday by Diana Rosie

A little boy and his grandfather embark on a quest to find the old man’s missing birthday in Diana Rosie’s debut novel, Alberto’s Lost Birthday. Alberto is an old man. But he doesn’t know how old – he remembers nothing before his arrival at an orphanage during the Spanish civil war. Their search for the old man’s memories takes them deep into the heart of Spain – a country that has pledged to forget its painful past. As stories of courage, cruelty and love unfold, Alberto realises that he has lost more than a birthday. He has lost a part of himself. But with his grandson’s help, he might just find it again.

2. Iberia by James A Michener

Spain is an immemorial land like no other, one that James A. Michener, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and celebrated citizen of the world, came to love as his own. Iberia is Michener’s enduring nonfiction tribute to his cherished second home. In the fresh and vivid prose that is his trademark, he not only reveals the celebrated history of bullfighters and warrior kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards, he also shares the intimate, often hidden country he came to know, where the congeniality of living souls is thrust against the dark weight of history. Wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful, this is Spain as experienced by a master writer.

3. Winter in Madrid by C J Samson

The Spanish Civil War is over, Madrid is in ruins, the Germans continue their sweep through Europe, and Franco refuses to enter the Second World War. Unassuming spy, Harry Brett, is sent over to Spain and rekindles his friendship with Sandy Forsyth. The novel twists and turns and really brings to life through clever use of turns of phrases of the epoc, intertwined relationships and a climactic end.

4. Bread and Oil: Majorcan Cultures Last Stand by Tomas Graves

On the island of Mallorca pa amb oli (bread and oil) is rubbed with garlic or tomatoes and salt, as it is in many other Mediterranean countries. Graves starts with this simple dish as a starting point to explore more cooking, traditions, agriculture, and historical influences that trace the dish back to Roman Times. This dish symbolises for the people of Mallorca their traditional roots and celebrates their resourceful nature, despite becoming a popular tourist destination and all the pressures that entails…

5. Bueno by Christy Esmahan

6. Confessions by Jaume Cabré

Drawing comparisons with Shadow of the Wind, The Name of the Rose and The Reader, and an instant bestseller in more than 20 languages, Confessions is an astonishing story of one man’s life, interwoven with a narrative that stretches across centuries to create an addictive and unforgettable literary symphony. At 60 and with a diagnosis of early Alzheimers, Adrià Ardèvol re-examines his life before his memory is systematically deleted.

7. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s memoir of his experience as a volunteer soldier with the Marxist party POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) during the Spanish Civil War. The work presents a vivid and passionate picture of the initial revolutionary stages of the war in Barcelona and the horrific reality of the front. Homage to Catalonia is particularly significant because it chronicles Orwell’s progressive disappointment with Stalinist communism and his characterisation of the regime as totalitarian and repressive, ideas that he would later explore in his works Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

8. Mucho Caliente by Francesca Prescott

Thirty-seven year old Gemma hadn’t reckoned on being seated next to Latino heartthrob Emilio Caliente on the flight to Ibiza. She’s bravely dismissed her cheating husband’s generous divorce settlement, opting instead for a creatively satisfying, financially independent, bohemian lifestyle on a Spanish island in the sun. Falling in love with a pop music superstar eight years her junior was definitely not part of her plan.Common sense dictates staying away from Emilio Caliente and his cinnamon kisses.But surely the chain of extraordinary events that insists on bringing them together is proof that love is oblivious to common sense?

9. Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas

The unnamed voice of this book is a contemporary journalist, who is investigating the story of Rafael Sanchez Mazas, a “good, not great” writer from the 1930s,set against the final moments of the Spanish Civil War. Sometimes philosophical, sometimes ponderous, with good pace and insight.

10. A Late Dinner by Paul Richardson

This is more than just a book about food. It is a cultural journey, a travel memoir, a look at the national psyche, generally informative and interesting look at Spain and the place of food within society. In this vivid and humorous journey, Richardson takes us past the cliches of paella and gazpacho to tell the real story of Spain’s mouth-watering food, from the typical coastal cuisine to the shepherd cooking of the interior and the chic ‘urban’ food of Madrid and Barcelona. Along the way he gets caught up in a fish auction and the annual pig slaughter, spends a day at El Bulli restaurant and makes a never-ending stream of new friends.

Which other titles would you add for Spain? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below, there are so many more books that will transport you to this excellent location.

And do read the other posts in our ‘Ten great books set in…’ series:

Ten great books set in Berlin

Ten great books set in Paris

Ten great books set in New York

Ten great books set in London

Ten great book set in Rome

And the first in our ‘Five great books set in’… series:

Five great books set in Naples

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For many more books set in SPAIN, search the TripFiction database

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