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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  4,131 ratings  ·  485 reviews
An extraordinary epic of love, family and war set in the Basque town of Guernica before, during, and after its destruction by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War.

Calling to mind such timeless war-and-love classics as Corelli's Mandolin and The English Patient, Guernica is a transporting novel that thrums with the power of storytelling and is peopled with
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Some reviews almost write themselves, not this one. I wasn't sure what I was going to make of the book. In the first place, what is an American journalist doing written a novel set around the awful atrocity that took place at Guernica? Do we need any more Spanish Civil War novels? Is this just a "lets pick an atrocity and write a novel"?
To address some of these; Boling is a sports journalist, but he married a Basque woman and he has clearly absorbed the culture (and the food; I always like an
Alice Poon
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This was one of those reads that don’t strike a chord in me. I’m giving the novel 3.5 stars. There’s nothing wrong with the writing. On the whole, the storytelling is skillfully executed, with sympathetic characters and descriptive setting, evoking sense of place and time. The description of the war scenes and aftermath in the last third of the book is particularly piquant.

It is a historical novel set in Guernica in the days leading up to the Second World War. The story is mainly about the
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
For me, a historical fiction novel must have characters that are at least as strong as the event around which the narrative centers. Assuming history is poignant enough to tell its own story is risky, and I'm sorry to say that in this case the risk didn't pay off.

Dave Boling tries to create a picture of family life before, during, and after the tragic bombing of Guernica. As we follow our protagonists through adolescence, adulthood, marriage, birth, and in some cases, death, all the characters
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Since I never seem to have a lot of time to read "grown-up" books, I can be super picky about I will make time for. And if I can only get one "grown-up" book read this winter, I am glad it was Guernica!

I love it when a book sparks my interest in a subject that I never really took time to appreciate before. Leon Uris's Trinity lead me into learning more about the history and struggles of the Irish Nation; Manhunt by James Swanson opened my eyes to a period in our own history (and President) that
David Eppenstein
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I know next to nothing about the Spanish Civil War and have never had any reason to correct that ignorance. So reading this historical fiction about probably the most horrific event of that war was not likely except for the recommendation of a GR friend(Mary Ann thank you) to whom I am once again indebted. Guernica is a treasure that will endear itself to almost any reader that enjoys a good story blended seamlessly with good history.

Before reading this book what I knew of the Spanish Civil War
A marvelously absorbing and wonderfully written novel that captivates the spirit and culture of the Basque people in Guernica between 1893 and 1940. Hard to believe that this is Dave Boling's first book. With beautiful and complete mastery of the language, Boling brings the compelling characters to life - whether it's Justo, Miguel, Xabier, Dodo, Alaia, Mariangeles or Miren. We literally live with the characters as the novel unfolds, bringing the reader into the culture, ethos and vibrancy of ...more
Sep 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
As a native Basque from Bilbao, a city not far from Gernika, I was somewhat skeptical about what a non-Basque would have to say about my country and the bombing of Gernika. The story starts off somewhat slow and for a moment the author lost my interest, but as the female characters in the story start being introduced, I was pulled back in. Boling's strength is characterization; the people in the story really come to life in his descriptions and dialogs. The reader can see how the Basque culture ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it, 2010, basque
I wish I were a better reviewer to convince people that they need to read this book. Guernica is the beautiful story of a tragic time in the northern hills of Spain, home to the Basque people.

Maybe I should say I'm a little biased. I'm Basque. My grandmother (or Amuma as we called her) lived through this story. Her brother was in the marketplace of Guernica when it was bombed and I knew at times I was interjecting my own family into the story.

Regardless of this, I came to love the characters for
Mary Ann
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinary book. Sadly, not too many Americans know much about the Spanish Civil War; even for baby-boomers like me, it wasn't something we heard about from our parents or grandparents as it didn't really touch an America that had to be exploded out of isolationism by Pearl Harbor. Boling tells this story dramatically from the viewpoint of the Basque Country, the ancient, fiercely proud, and very rich culture perched for centuries between France and Spain. We learn of the shameful ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish the history of the Spanish Civil War, the bombing of Guernica, and the Basque culture was taught in school. It seems to be a forgotten but impactful moment leading up to WWII. Very interesting read with good character development.
Dec 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kirkus, hf, spain, text-checked
Page 221 read. April 26, 1937 has happened. Guernica has been literally levelled with 250 kilogram and incendiary bombs. Led by Wolfgram von Richtofen, the cousin of Manfred von Richtofen, ie the Red Baron. Total devastation. Difficult reading, but very well written. Only readable because some few human beings, although realisticly depicted, remain humane. And the chapter of destruction is relatively short. This reamains a 4 or 5 star book.

Through page 166. I definitely like the writing, the way
Jun 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Obviously, from the title of this debut novel, you know something horrible is going to happen but I was so mesmerized by the stories of the larger than life passionate and proud Basque characters that when it happens it almost took me by surprise.

Weaved through the bitter sweet and sometimes hilarious stories of two Basque families and their friends, there are short paragraphs on ‘real’ people such as Picasso, Luftwaffe pilot Von Richthofen and Basque president José Antonio Aguirre, all
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
Just when I was about to give up on this month's selection of $3.99 or less Kindle books on Amazon... I came across this one and decided to give it a try...

And... it is love at first sentence... "Justo Ansotegui returns to the market now to hear the language and to buy soap. He places bars in scattered dishes where he can catch their scent during the day, although they fail to mask the odors of the livestock that have lived in his house for generations..."


Finished this yesterday afternoon.
Joan Hubbard
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Best book to read before going to Basque Country. It was a resource that made the trip more inspiring from Bilbao, Guernica and San Sebastián.
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Historical Favorites
Page 13:
From medieval times, Guernica was a crossroads of the old Romain Way and the Fish and Wine Route that wound through the hills inland from the sea. Intersecting them both was the pilgrim's route to Santiago de Compostela.

Page 215:
Following the initial debriefing, von Richthofen sent a quick message to his superiors: "The concentrated air attack on Guernica was the greatest success." ...He had never expended more resources toward the destruction of a single target, and the town of Guernica
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
I started this during a trip to Spain. I'm about 1/4 way in and it is excellent. I read comparisons to Corelli's Mandolin and The English Patient which gives me great hope. I do love being in Spain whilst reading (listening in this case).

This was amazing. About halfway through the book I was able to stand in front of the Picasso masterpiece. The book added a lot to my feeling about the painting and the painting added oh so much to my feeling about the book. It was the perfect
Jun 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
One of the most moving pieces of historical fiction I have ever read. Having just read The Basque History of the World, this was great following book. But it would have been great anyway. Weaving incredible family bonds, Picasso (to serve as the structure of the history to present times), absolute bravery and intelligence of the French and Basque resistance fighters, and the little known (at least to me) generosity of British civilians and of course the bravery of the RAF, into a page turner is ...more
Jun 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title gives away that something terrible is going to happen, and the attack by the Luftwaffe on Guernica is indeed the centrepiece of this disjointed book.

It's odd for me to read a novel where I feel iffy about the beginning and end, but like the middle. The beginning is too flighty and tries far too hard to create various Basque characters (or more acurately charcatures) in the way of an early Louis De Bernieres novel. While the last section feels a bit tagged-on and has an ending which is
Mar 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. It takes place in Pays Basque specifically around Guernica. Recently Charles told me that he read this line by a literary critic, "the best books are not about ideas, but about people." I scoffed at the idea. After reading this book, I think the critic might have a point. This book made me feel so many things. Love for the Basque people and their culture. It doesn't hurt that I spent a week in French Basque country in 2007 and had one of the best times of my life. Hatred ...more
Lee Goldberg
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
really loved it, even if I did see the big plot twist coming hundreds of pages away.

I was lured to GUERNICA by the ads in the London subway that featured blurbs comparing it to CORELLI'S MANDOLIN and BIRDSONG, two other books that I really liked. So I ran out to buy it, thinking I'll never find the book at home...of course, it turns out to be a UK reprint of a U.S. book by a Washington state sports writer. No matter, I devoured it on the flight home. So I guess the lesson here is that subway
Apr 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abby Welker
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really, really, really liked this book. I couldn't give it 5 stars only because it wasn't one of the BEST books I've ever read, but it was SUCH a good story. There was a parental advisory when I got it off iTunes as an audiobook and I'm guessing it's because of the war scenes and maybe the {very} few sexual intimacy moments, which were barely even mentioned and completely non-descriptive. So the book isn't for teens, but it's definitely a book I'd recommend to any of my friends.

It was a
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it
I went to Spain in 7th grade and I really do think the art, architecture, and history has been a part of me ever since. A highlight and privilege of this trip was our viewing of Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica'. Even at a young age I was moved. That is the reason I wanted to read this book-- to learn more about history through historical fiction.

I feel as though this book had a simply amazing beginning and gradual build-up to the actual bombing event. The characters were lovable and I was interested
Jenny Grieve-laing
Guernica is going on my 'favourites' bookshelf as simply one of the best books I have ever read! Most of us will see the title and immediately associate it with the bombing of Guernica in Spain in 1937 or perhaps the famous Picasso painting of the same name depicting the horror of war but Boling gives us more than that. We are shown, through the family of beautifully drawn characters, what it means to be Basque; their triumphs, traditions, struggles, sorrows and loves. The actual bombing takes ...more
Kat Lopez
I have never been a fan of Historical Fiction, until I finished this book. It very well described the impact of the Spanish Civil War to the Basques and the people around the world during that time. The first part of the story was mainly about the lives of the main characters followed by more named characters and different story lines adding up to the build-up of the plot.

The various integration of snippets about Picasso and his painting was a brilliant touch...very subtle and and the author
James Marinero
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
I visited Bilbao in 2000 on my boat, and coasting just a few miles from Bilbao to Castro Urdiales necessitated changing the courtesy flag from the Basque flag to the Spanish flag. 'Don't fly the Spanish flag when in Bilbao' was the verbal advice, contrary to the normal maritime convention. Whilst we were moored in Bilbao, we heard an ETA bomb explode near the University.

The Basques are an intensely proud race, the border between France and Spain is a fiction to them.

Read this novel and you will
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
I just finished this book yesterday. But I bought it almost two months ago...and my friends know how fast I read! But it was so emotional for me knowing how it was going to end because I am somewhat familiar with the history behind the bombing of Guernica; seeing as I am of Basque heritage. The thing was that I became so connected to the characters, they were like friends/family! One of the few books I have been that emotionally connected to! The author, I think, does a good job of pulling you ...more
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was another of my random pick-ups in the library. It was only when I looked closer at the blurb that I realised this book was about Basque country, a place my great grandparents had left years previously to the books events. I had never known about Guernica aside from that there was a famous Picasso work bearing the same name.

This was one of the most moving historical fiction books I have read. I became very involved with all the characters. The first half the book sets up the character
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This historical fiction was recommended because we are traveling to northern Spain/Portugal soon. You could tell from the beginning that it will be a sad story. It interlaces the simple, happy lives of the Basque people near Guernica with the backdrop of the Spanish civil war and the intervention by Germany to test out their war machines. Along the way there are bits of Picasso history, leading up to his huge and famous work depicting the horrors of war, "Guernica."
The author is a journalist so
HelenDolly Plumb
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The historic background of this book is very interesting, I have learned a lot from it. The narrative style is quite simple so it's not a difficult to read, I was also reading a large print edition which made it even easier. The narration does constantly switch from character to character which is fine although I liked it less when it was real people, eg. Picasso. For the first part of the book I did get a sense of foreboding you know it is building up to the bombing of Guernica in which a ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Guernica by Dave Boling 1 12 Oct 05, 2015 03:06PM  
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Dave Boling is a journalist in the Seattle area. Guernica is his first novel
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“So Justo comes to listen. The language always has been the most important act of separation anyway, as the bond is to the words more than to the land. Since nothing on maps reflects their existence, the extent of their “country” is the range of their language. But like the dances, the flag, and the celebrations, the words are banned, making a prayer whispered in Basque as illegal as a call to arms in the public square.” 1 likes
“And the hunger that once chewed at them like a mean dog now seems more like an annoying houseguest who simply refuses to leave.” 1 likes
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