Sunday, September 6, 2009
Guernica by Dave Boling
Guernica covers the years from 1893-1940. The reader learns of the Basque people and their culture. This is an agrian society, with farmers and fishermen. The people work hard and love their families and their land above all.
The years before WW II are dangerous ones for this area. Those who want independance are overwhelmed by the Spanish who are allied with the Germans and the Italians. Basques are labeled as troublesome separatists and unloyal to the country. The Basque country is in Spain, and there is a natural struggle between the Spanish government and the Basque people. The forces making their way across Europe in this time frame gave a window of opportunity to those seeking to repress the Basques forever.
The reader learns of two Basque families. One is a farming family, led by the Justo, the strongest man in town. He is married to Mariangeles and they have one child, a daughter named Miren. The other family is a fishing family, but one son is not enamoured of the sea and comes to Guernica to live his life instead as a carpenter. This is Miguel, who marries Miren and finds happiness and contentment with her. They have a baby daughter, Catalina.
Those who have heard of Guernica probably know of it from the tragedy that struck the town on April 26, 1937. The German airforce, to train their pilots prior to the war they knew was coming, and to support Franco and his political party, carried out three hours of horrific air raids on the town. Guernica was almost totally destroyed, with most families losing one or many members and families torn apart. People were killed in the intial blasts, or in collapsing buildings or by overcrowding in the shelters. Almost no family was untouched. There was as much firepower used in this one attack as in all of WW I. It was the first use of modern air warfare, and the opening of the ability to kill hundreds in a quick attack. The other striking feature was that this was not a military attack; instead, harmless townpeople were targeted and shot down as they ran for shelter. The horror of what was done was captured by Picasso, in his famous painting of the same name, showing the world what had been done to Guernica and the Basques who had lived there for centuries.
This is Dave Boling's first novel, and it is incredible to me that such a wonderful novel could be someone's debut. I was immediately attracted to the characters, and they became very important to me as I read. There was dread as I knew what would happen, but I had to continue reading to see what would happen to these brave families. This book is highly recommended to those lovers of historical fiction, or anyone looking for a great read.