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BOOK LIST: Kate Lord Brown - Favourite books set in Spain

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spain is one of my favourite countries in the world. I actually spent my honeymoon there, and so I think of it as a gorgeous, romantic and sensual country. I drew upon the historical setting of the Spanish Civil War for my own novel FULL FATHOM FIVE and have been interested in both the place and the time ever since. (and yes, yes, I know! It was published under my maiden name, Kate Humphrey) 


Kate Lord Brown, the author of the wonderful books THE PERFUME GARDEN and THE BEAUTY CHORUS has kindly compiled a list of her favourite books set in Spain. 


She says: 


"We arrived in Spain in the winter of 2001 at the end of several months travelling around the world, with just a battered silver trunk in the back of our small convertible. 

I had never visited the country that was to be our home for the next few years, and had no idea what to expect. In my imagination, it was a combination of austere, beautiful hilltop castles, dazzling bougainvillea, whitewashed mountain villages – and the blowsy high rise resorts on the coast so beloved by European tourists. In imagination it was sunny, hot. The drive through the drizzly Pyrenees, across the sweeping plains to Madrid and ochre hills to Valencia surprised me.

There have been some good ‘Year In Provence’ style books published since – notably Chris Stewart’s ‘Driving Over Lemons’, which is a good start if you are planning to visit or live in Spain. 



When we moved there, I was relying on my copy of the Rough Guide to Spain, Spanish for Dummies, and a general admiration for Spanish literature. There’s nothing like youthful gung-ho enthusiasm. 

I had always loved the work of Spanish writers – the influence of authors like Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez was responsible for the not entirely successful magic realism of my early stories. If you like Allende’s novels, I recommend her cook book/memoir ‘Aphrodite’ which I packed in the trunk when we moved to Spain, and cooked my way through over the months. 


I love Spanish language poets too, Lorca and Neruda particularly. I began to immerse myself in Spanish culture and history as we travelled – everything from the basics of the Spanish Civil War, to Hemingway’s evocative, macho ‘Death In the Afternoon’. 


In Spain, I read Washington Irving’s ‘Tales of the Alhambra’ during a memorable trip south to Granada (So did I, Kate LB!). If you ever get the chance to visit the Alhambra – go. It’s a magical, fairytale place, just as beautiful in reality as in imagination. As the idea of writing a novel about Spain came together thirteen years ago, I started reading more deeply – the photo illustrating today’s post is just one shelf at home. 



There are boxes of Spanish history books and novels, stored with the early notes for ‘The Perfume Garden’ in England. These are just a few of the very best books I came across:

‘Homage to Catalonia’ by George Orwell, and ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’ by Laurie Lee are two classics that transport you back in time and into the shoes of two writers who fought during the Spanish Civil War.



‘Battle for Spain’ by Beevor and ‘Doves of War’ by Preston were the two most useful histories of the Civil War.

‘South from Granada’ by Brennan (in fact anything by Brennan on Spain), is a wonderful account by one of the Bloomsbury set of his time in Spain. Worth reading for the account of Virginia Woolf on a mule alone.



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