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Historical Novels Review: "Beautifully described."

Date: Feb 1 2013

The 1930s in the Spanish Pyrenees, very close to the French border. I found it easy to believe an isolated contemporary valley could tell the same tale – except no televisions or phones tangle up the plot. The news comes on paper, read aloud at night in the lone local bar. If you’ve read a Nobel Prize winner or two, you will recognize the tropes: The voice of the village schoolteacher trying in his own small way to save the world. The numbing life of the landless peasant. The oppression of the masters, the landowners. The distant promise of revolution. They’re calling this “eco-fiction,” but Nobel laureates are also required to evoke the harsh but beloved landscapes of their native haunts. The simple story. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to suggest that the ending may bring more cheer than your average laureate. Is that all that will keep Mediano from a trip to Stockholm?

This quick read tells the tale of the poor shepherd Ramon who falls in love with Alba, the villainous landowner’s daughter. That such a thing could even be dreamed of sparks hope in every peasant’s heart in a way beautifully described by the author. I’m sure we let Hollywood give us such hope in every blockbuster. Ramon slaves, lives frugally, learns to read, then turns first to smuggling and the gun running to attain his prize. And then …