The best books about Francoist Spain

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Francoist Spain and why they recommend each book.

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Prison of Women

By Tomas Cuevas, Mary E. Giles,

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

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.

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 David Warriner, Johana Gustawsson,

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 Spanish Holocaust

By Paul Preston,

Book cover of The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain

The whole of Spanish history is contentious, with hardly a fact not subject to challenge or attack. But slowly, clarity and understanding have come forth, and finally, in this volume, the extraordinary scholar Paul Preston gives us the facts about the campaigns of extermination in the Spanish Civil War. Anyone who wants a solid, grounded, informed understanding of this miserable time of slaughter needs this book. Painful reading, and all the more necessary for that.

Who am I?

I am a writer who lived in the city of Granada for almost four years, in the uncanny barrio of the Albayzin. The daily blessings of life there are powerful and cumulative, and I wrote a book in honor of such luminosity; and I wrote it, as well, because most of us have been lied to about Spanish history. But the truth, like the poetry of Garcia Lorca, cannot be suppressed. In my sojourn in Spain, and in my visits over the years, I have found Granada to be a treasure-house of stories and poetry; and in flamenco singing, the home of one of the most powerful art-forms of music in the world.

I wrote...

Granada: A Pomegranate in the Hand of God

By Steven Nightingale,

Book cover of Granada: A Pomegranate in the Hand of God

What is my book about?

Granada is one of the iconic cities of the world. It stands for the culture of Al-Andalus, composed of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, who lived together in the legendary convivencia of the Spanish Middle Ages. Al-Andalus was one of the most brilliant cultures in Mediterranean history and set in place the foundations of the European Renaissance. 

The history of Granada is one of utopian ecstasy, vicious tragedy, mystical exaltation, and creations of durable beauty. It is a story of spiritual longing and artful dreams, with a bracing mixture of practical science, world-changing philosophy, and unforgettable music. It is a teaching story, where we can learn something about the best way forward in our own tumultuous epoch.

The Shadow of the Wind

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves (translator),

Book cover of The Shadow of the Wind

I have always loved libraries. This novel takes place in 1940s Barcelona, a place of danger, romance, and memories that linger like ghosts. There’s a hidden library, a lost author, and a touch of romance, all set during the dangerous aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. What more could I want?

Who am I?

I am the son of a pacifist poet and a Marine veteran of Vietnam. Perhaps because of this contradiction, I’ve been unable to find any occupation satisfying outside of writing. I spent my formative years with imaginary friends I met in libraries. My love of faraway places, romance, and war continues to this day. I write stories of strangers meeting under bleak conditions and finding the strength in each other to win the day.

I wrote...

The Beekeeper's Bullet

By Lance Hawvermale,

Book cover of The Beekeeper's Bullet

What is my book about?

Ellenor Jantz lives in rural Germany in 1917, the Great War raging only a few miles from where she works as a beekeeper for a wealthy loyalist. When a British airman crashes behind enemy lines, Ellenor must choose between aiding him or handing him over to the German authorities.

Alec Corbin-Dawes, Royal Flying Corps, is the injured pilot who finds himself at Ellenor’s mercy. Against her better judgment, Ellenor hides Alec from the Germans and agrees to help him steal a plane so he can resume his journey. On the night of the theft, Ellenor’s only hope for survival is to leap into the biplane’s observer seat and take to the sky...


By Dave Boling,

Book cover of Guernica

You don’t have to know much about the Spanish civil war to have heard of Guernica. If you’ve ever seen Picasso’s work depicting the bombing, this book creates the story of the people of the town going about their everyday lives just before the painting’s horror. As a reader, you know what is coming but are helpless to do anything but care for characters who are oblivious to the destruction coming their way. 

As an author, I found inspiration in this novel for my own portrayal of the civil war in Spain. The trick is to let ordinary people tell the story for you.

Who am I?

Author of Pippo & Clara and Alberto’s Lost Birthday, Diana Rosie writes historical fiction that tells a story first and foremost, while gently uncovering the history of a time and place. In the vast spectrum of the genre, where historians like Hilary Mantel and James A Michener sit at one end, the novels that inspire her most can be found at the other. The books she recommends here are stories to make your heart ache and your soul sing. And they just happen to be set in the past.

I wrote...

Pippo and Clara

By Diana Rosie,

Book cover of Pippo and Clara

What is my book about?

Italy, 1938. Mussolini is in power and war is not far away... When Mamma goes missing early one morning, both Clara and Pippo go in search of her. Clara turns right; Pippo left. As a result of the choices they make that morning, their lives will be changed forever. Pippo and Clara tells the story of a family and a country divided. But will Clara and Pippo – and their mother – find each other again?

The Disinherited

By Henry Kamen,

Book cover of The Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975

With intellectual life almost completely closed down and censored by the Franco regime, the shaping of Spanish cultural life was led by its guardians in exile. From an exterior focus Kamen’s light is shone back on the brilliance and resilience of Spanish intellectual life.

Who am I?

A lifetime of an obsession with Spain since a childhood spent on Miro’s farm in Montroig del Camp and just a short walk away from where Gaudi was born I have cooked, researched, battled, and fallen in love with this extraordinary country. Almost 40 years ago I bought a farmhouse in Arevalillo de Cega in the central mountains in Spain from where I have crisscrossed the country in the footsteps of Goya, the culinary genius Ferran Adria and in search of information for my biography on Gaudi – the God of Catalan architecture. Spain is an open book with a million pages, endlessly fascinating, contrary, unique, and 100% absorbing. I fell in deep.

I wrote...

Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon

By Gijs van Hensbergen,

Book cover of Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon

What is my book about?

Artfully disguised behind Picasso’s astonishing canvas Guernica: The Biography of a 20th icon is a fascinating history of Spain and the 20thc. There is espionage, war, sex, spies, double-dealing, treason, and the devastating effects of total war – blitzkrieg. Reaching deep into personal trauma, collective grief, and the full history of art from caveman to the present day Picasso fashioned the most powerful enduring icon ever produced. Totally unique - despite its endless re-production - Guernica, still speaks to us today with alarming urgency about the horrors of war.

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