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The Spanish Bow

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  149 reviews
In a dusty, turn-of-the-century Catalan village, the bequest of a cello bow sets young Feliu Delargo on an unlikely path. When a local landowner's wrath threatens his family, the Spanish bow leads Feliu to anarchist Barcelona, then on to the court in Madrid, where a music master's daughter gives him his first lessons in the art of love. There he meets up with the charming ...more
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published September 10th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2007)
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I made it nearly halfway through this book before deciding not to continue. It's a well-written, carefully told story. Perhaps a little too carefully told as regards the endless details of Feliu's life. I felt like the author assumed too much knowledge on the part of the reader about the events surrounding Feliu's experiences. I had hoped to learn something about Spanish history, but the author makes a lot of veiled references to events and intrigues with which we're already supposed to be ...more
Feliu Delargo was almost born happy, almost born with the name Felix as his mother had wanted. But instead he was a breach birth, born butt first into a house of chaos that mistakenly thought he was born dead. His name is misspelled on his birth certificate but does this mistake rob him of happiness in later life? He grew up in a small Spanish town in the late 19th century, where as a young boy he is taken to the train station by his mother. He thinks he is there to pick up his father. He is ...more
Nov 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feliu Delargo suffers two accidents at his birth in a Catalan village in 1892. A traumatic birth burdens him with a hip injury and the notary mistakes his mother’s intention to name him Feliz, or Happy. When he is six years old, his father, soon to die in Cuba, sends a box of gifts to be distributed among his children. Feliu is drawn to a wooden stick that sets him on his life’s course as he learns first to play the violin and then the cello.

Over the course of the 20th century, as Feliu becomes
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Can art save us from ourselves? In her elegant debut, THE SPANISH BOW, Ms Romano-Lax ponders this timeless question through the ambitious tale of Feliu Delargo, a gifted cellist born in turn-of-the-century Spain who receives the unexpected gift of a bow from his dead father and sets himself on a resolute path to mastering his craft. His journey takes him from performing in the defiant streets of Barcelona to the confidences of the queen of Spain and a tumultuous partnership with flamboyant ...more
Book Concierge
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
The novel follows the fictitious cellist Feliu Delargo from his birth in a Catalan village in 1892 to the concert halls of Spain, France and Germany in the early 20th century and finally to the train depot in a small French port city in October 1940.

Romano-Lax has included a number of historical figures from the worlds of art, culture and politics – Kurt Weill, Pablo Picasso, and Adolf Hitler to name just three. The author was inspired by the life of Pablo Casals, but the book is NOT a
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
If you’ve read this then you know why this is so sad. It’s not entirely bad, it’s just that it drags on and on far past the point where you’re interested in the main character. I like how the author incorporates known artistic and political figures of the time period in, but that still doesn’t make up for the fact that it just drags. Not the best novel I’ve ever read but out of the bunch I brought home with me, I guess this was the best. *sigh*
May 31, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 stars rounded up. This historical novel has all the right elements going for it. Drama, art, the clash of the 19th century and the beginning of the twentieth. Written by a journalist turned author there were too many facts and descriptions at the expense of narrative.
The story line is about three musicians brought together by fate, two Spanish and one Jewish. Their stories are intertwined with the politics of the era. I did learn something about how Spain became a fascist country but would
Jun 09, 2008 rated it liked it
This book came highly recommended by a good friend of mine. I can see why she thought I would like it; the protagonist is a cellist, and the book follows his life, from his inauspicious birth through his rising career, and finally into his old age, when his life has changed dramatically.

The portions having to do with music are enthralling. It's clear the author has first-hand knowledge of the art, the pull of the instrument, the need to play. As a pianist, I identify with the main character, as
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read anything like this in quite a long time. The thing with well-researched novels is that you tend to forget that they're just fiction. Spain is one of my favorite European countries, so you can just imagine my happiness reading about how it was in the olden days - specifically during the Spanish civil war and the World War II. The cameo appearances of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Picasso, and King Alfonso of Spain make this novel all the more interesting. You should read this book, I ...more
Miss Eliza
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it

An interesting story of a young boy growing up with a fascination over playing the cello. The relationship of 3 musicians is explored in an historical setting in a culture is some degree of upheaval.
Feb 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Set in Spain in early 1900s. Musical prodigies, art, politics, and more.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: spain, music-history
The author does an amazing job of weaving in music, politics, history, and relationships throughout the book. It is beautifully written however it seemed to drag. ...more
Jake Tomko
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Spanish Bow was extremely well written and was worth the read. It takes place in Spain and follows Feliu in his journey to playing the cello. The story starts off explaining why Feliu is named his way. It explains that his mother had gone through multiple miscarriages, and was going to name him Felix meaning happiness. And during his birth it seemed he was going to die. As he was having problems and his hip ended up being permanently hurt during birth. As the story goes on, Feliu is placed ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too Many Stories

I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I loved it - the setting, the scope, the characters. Romano-Lax writes in sweeping bands of poetry. Her imagery takes you where she wants you to go. The story travels from rural Spain in the 1890s through the First World War, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of fascism in Europe - Franco, Mussolini, Hitler. If that sounds like a lot of ground to cover, it is. And with the passions of the protagonists whipping us to and fro, it is
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction featuring a cellist beginning at his birth in Spain in 1892. Beautiful descriptive passages!"Duarte's cello was a glossy caramel color, and the sound it produced was as warm and rich as the instrument looked. It sounded like a human voice. Not the high warble of an opera singer or anyone else singing for the stage, but rather the soothing voice of a fisherman singing as he mended his nets, or of a mother singing lullabies to her sleepy children. When the cellist reached a ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm in two minds about this book. Like many other reviewers here I also wantte to stop half way through but it was a rainy day and I was on holiday so I finished it. I'm glad I did. I like the author's writing style. I loved the music information but I think this is more a history book about Spain, and it bored me.
Overall, not a bad read but it dragged on a bit too long.
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The reviews for this book were mixed. I ate it up. I read this book in about a day. It had all the things I love in fiction. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and this was much different as it wasn't the main focal point of the story. I was pretty immediately invested in the characters and was almost in tears by the end. The writing is absolutely beautiful. Highly reccomend.
Kristen Fort
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So glad I had picked up this book a few years ago! I do play cello, so the premise really spoke to me. I didn't know a whole lot about Spain between the two World Wars, but I feel like I've learned about it, got transported into that atmosphere.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved it! It reads like an old classic. It's one of the few books that I read more than once!
Ana Veciana-Suarez
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, a very entertaining and expansive historical novel. It puts you right into the life of a Catalan cellist who is patterned very loosely on Pablo Casals and his tumultuous times.
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
Art themed entertaining read
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Christine
Oh, the treasures that await at Seattle's "The Spanish Table" market, tucked underneath the Pike St. Hillclimb. Reflecting off the gleam of steel paella pans and bottles of port and Albarino, lining the way to the cheese and sausage cold case, are several rows of books: cookbooks from Spain and Portugal, travel books to illuminate the Santiago de Compostela, and works of fiction about Iberia or by authors who have a connection to that peninsula so ripe with history and romance.

Enter "The
Regina Lindsey
In his debut novel, Romano-Lux follows the life and musical devlopment of the fictional character, Feliu Delargo. While Delargo is inspired by the historical cellist Pablo Casals, it is clear this is not a fictionalized biography of Casals. In the opening chapters, young Feliu receives news of his father's death in Cuba, which is then followed by the arrival of a bow his father purchased as a gift for his son. Felius is first given violin lessons, at which he shows great talent. However, his ...more
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
(3.5 stars)This book covers the life of cellist Feliu beginning with his difficult birth in a Spanish village. After his father's death abroad in Cuba prior to the beginning of the Spanish-American War, among his father's belongings that are returned is a beautifully made bow. The young bow is enamored with it and longs to play an instrument. One of his mother's suitors arranges for music lessons, and Feliu begins on the violin. However, when he first sees a cello, he knows that it will be the ...more
Alison Hardtmann
Dec 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-but-unowned
"The Spanish Bow" tells the story of Feliu, a cellist whose career spans the first half of the twentieth century. Feliu witnesses the great events of age; the Spanish Civil War, the rise of Franco and the beginning of World War II. He meets many of the great names of the day, both musical and political. Despite all of this, Feliu, himself, remains a cipher, unwilling as he is to take action. The parts of his life where he is most active and involved are skirted quickly, the times he let events ...more
April Hamilton
Mar 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Review of the unabridged Audible audiobook.

The narration on this audiobook was very, very good. The narrator gives unique and believable voices to male and female characters of various ages and even nationalities.

As for the book itself, as historical drama it's a little too heavy on the history and a little too light on the characterization. The concept of following a single character through the tumult that gripped Spain in the 20's and 30's is strong, but the main character, Feliu, is so
Sep 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
As a boy, Feliu Delargo receives the posthumous gift of a bow from his father. Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century Spain, this fusion of art and politics traces his destiny as fated by the gift. As he travels from anarchist Barcelona to royalist Madrid and on to the capitals of Europe, his musical ability brings him into contact with a who’s who of non-fictional political leaders and artists. However, when the fascists take control in Spain, his passion is channeled into the ...more
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was perhaps too disappointed in this book, since my standards for historical fiction are fairly high. It felt very much like three books, one quite good if uneven (the early years in Spain), one confusing and odd (the obsessive "love" story), and one a fairly dry history lesson complete with didactics (in case we missed the point that fascism is bad). But ultimately, it was the narrator that put me off the story most. Deeply and irrevocably passive and self-absorbed, he is extremely hard to ...more
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
This is a sweeping, ambitious novel about a Spanish cellist that covers his life, from his birth to his death in 1978. I found it surprisingly funny, historically fascinating (I knew very little about the Spanish Civil War) and couldn't wait to get back to reading it when I had to stop. I was going to give it 4 stars because it's not a perfect book: there tended to be some lags before she picked up the thread of the story again, and it may have over-reached just a tiny bit at the expense of some ...more
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Andromeda Romano-Lax worked as a freelance journalist and travel writer before turning to fiction. Her first novel, The Spanish Bow, was translated into eleven languages and was chosen as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, BookSense pick, and one of Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year. Among her nonfiction works are a dozen travel and natural history guidebooks to the public lands of Alaska, ...more
“Since I was a very small boy, traveling from town to town, three hundred days a year, I learned to love this life. The cradlelike rock and sway of the train, the hospitality of our countrymen, the gentle hearts of our countrywomen. You will find that, as long as you keep moving, there is no end to the delights awaiting you. But you must keep moving, Feliu. Even when the heart skips; even when the view blurs.” 3 likes
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