The best books on the resistance during the Spanish Civil War

Johana Gustawsson Author Of Blood Song
By Johana Gustawsson

Who am I?

I am a French writer of Spanish origin. My two grandfathers shared history with Spain’s darkest hours. My maternal grandfather was born in Barcelona and he was a teenager at the time of the war; just like Salvayre’s parents, he had to flee Spain as the bombs were hitting his city. My paternal grandfather, who was in his twenties at the time of the civil war, decided to fight for the “International Brigades” to defend Spain’s freedom. It is to honour their memory and one of the millions of men and women who suffered from those almost four decades of dictatorship that I wrote Blood Song, a historical thriller, the third installment in the Roy and Castell series.

I wrote...

Blood Song

By Johana Gustawsson, David Warriner,

Book cover of Blood Song

What is my book about?

Terrifying, vivid, and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain's dictatorship, in the latest, stunning instalment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco's brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women's prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

The books I picked & why

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Prison of Women: Testimonies of War and Resistance in Spain, 1939-1975

By Tomas Cuevas, Mary E. Giles,

Book cover of Prison of Women: Testimonies of War and Resistance in Spain, 1939-1975

Why this book?

Tomasa Cuevas, who spent herself many years in jail during the Franco dictatorship, collected testimonies of women incarcerated following the Spanish civil war. Mary E. Giles brilliantly translated and edited those testimonies. Prison of women is a powerful book as it is an act of resistance by itself: Tomasa had to cross the country to interview those women at a time when Franco was still ruling and we cannot thank Mary E Giles enough for bringing these testimonies to us. She explains in a heart-warming introduction how she came to translate and edit this book.

The Sleeping Voice

By Dulce Chacon, Nick Caistor,

Book cover of The Sleeping Voice

Why this book?

The Sleeping Voice is the most poignant novel about women in the Spanish civil war you will get to read. Those voices are the ones of the women who fought throughout the dictatorship not to be forgotten as the silent soldiers they were. Those voices tell us that the real heroes are very often anonymous. You won’t be able to part with Hortensia, Elvira and Tomasa, the heroines: I can guarantee that they will all stay with you. I actually chose a quote from that book to open Blood Song: it is about a mother wondering how the sea looks like as her boys are laying in it. 

Cry, Mother Spain

By Lydie Salvayre, Ben Faccini,

Book cover of Cry, Mother Spain

Why this book?

The former French psychiatrist Lydie Salvayre won the prestigious Goncourt Prize for that brilliant novel about the Spanish civil war. Salvayre’s parents, who were Republicans, had to flee Franco’s regime, and we feel that her writing is sewn with emotion and memories. The two voices we hear echo perfectly that troubling period of Spanish history: the one of Salvayre’s own mother recounting her experiencing the civil war and the one of the French writer Georges Bernanos. A novel not to be missed.

Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell,

Book cover of Homage to Catalonia

Why this book?

To feel the Spanish civil war from the start and from the inside, George Orwell journal is a must read. The writer, whose love for Spain and Catalonia was well-known, fought with the Republicans in 1936 and 1937, at the start of the conflict. He was appalled by the way the British journalists and newspapers were reporting on it, saying that it was so faraway from the truth. His dystopia 1984, has been greatly inspired by the Franco dictatorship that lasted from 1939 to 1975.

Desde la noche y la niebla

By Juana Doña,

Book cover of Desde la noche y la niebla

Why this book?

This is the only book in my selection that can just be found in Spanish language. But it’s a fantastic book as Juana Doña wrote a novel about the eighteen years she spent as a political prisoner in the Franco jails. From the night and the fog is a testimony about the resistance that women organised from their prison cells, the fight they led with incredible spirit and resilience despite the inhuman conditions they were living in, mots of them having lost so many loved ones in the war. The horrifying truth shines in a painful but necessary way.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Spanish Civil War, Spain, and communism?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Spanish Civil War, Spain, and communism.

The Spanish Civil War Explore 42 books about the Spanish Civil War
Spain Explore 135 books about Spain
Communism Explore 60 books about communism

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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