List: Books Set in Spain

Posted 28 August, 2013 by Lianne in Lists / 8 Comments

So I put together a list last week featuring some books set in Paris, France. This week, I am looking at books set in Spain as around this time back in 2010 I was somewhere in that country (probably Barcelona or Valencia).

I love Spain. It was really hot when we were there but that’s okay. There’s just something really unique about their history and their culture that fascinates me; there’s so much more going on underneath the surface, so much complexity. We were only in Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid but I would love to go to the other cities and regions in the country one day. Did I mention the architecture is amazing? You can feel the age in some of these places…

The country probably also intrigues me because I didn’t study its history as much as the other European countries in uni. In fact, had I gone on to do my PhD, I might’ve done my dissertation on Spanish history (long story, it’s a big jump from my previous studies, etc.), but that’s beside the point here…

The following list after the cut is a mix of classic lit and contemporary lit featuring different aspects of Spain. I chose not to focus on a particular city for this list because my list is just all over the country, lol.


The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (commentary) — a.k.a. the book that started it all. Aside from it being a very gripping tale that kept me up at all hours just to read through it and find out what happened next, it really brought the Gothic and the mystery and the allure and the danger/emotion of Spanish culture to life for me. It also had me thinking about the realities of life during the Franco period and just the history of Spain as a whole. This book not only prompted me to seek out novels similar to it in terms of mystery and atmosphere but it also had me seeking out books set in Spain. It was also the inspiration behind our family trip a few years ago; it was supposed to be only France but my suggestions about detouring to Barcelona–so that I can see some of the places that Zafon wrote about–ended up to be a trip to Spain as well =)

Nada by Carmen Laforet (review) — Probably the closest book I’ve read to the atmosphere that Zafon conveyed in his novels, with the exception that Laforet did indeed live during the period that this novel was set in. Also set in Barcelona, this novel is more of a coming-of-age/the stifling drama between family and politics at a time of political and social unrest. The writing is gorgeous, the atmosphere really feels cloistered and tense and it’s just amazing all around. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it ^^

The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte (review) — Perez-Reverte is known for his action-adventure-mystery novels and this novel is my favourite from him. It’s a mystery but it really had me glued from the first page, trying to figure out what was going on with the painting but also with the people involved in the mystery. It was clever and entertaining and it’s set in Madrid.

The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax (review) — I really love this novel by Romano-Lax, the scope of the story spans for a good chunk of the 20th century, following two characters, their music, their personal drama all with the various upheavals and social/political changes happening in the country at the background. I’m surprised there’s not a lot more talk about this novel, I thought it was pretty fantastic and a great introduction to Spanish history if you don’t know much about it (which would then prompt you to read up more on the subject matter =P)

Winter in Madrid by C.J. Samson (review) — C.J. Samson is known more for his medieval mysteries but he did write this standalone, set during the 1940s and the early days of the Franco regime. You get a sense of the changes and the politics through the characters that are portrayed in this novel and the story itself is a whole array of different genres: a historical drama, a spy thriller, a romance.

The Returned by Victoria Hislop — I read this novel a few years ago, the family drama set in Granada during the 1930s and the development of the Civil War. This story was especially interesting because I think it was the first novel I read that focused quite a bit on the flamenco.

Selected Verse & Four Major Plays by Federico Garcia Lorca — I must’ve mentioned it time and again that Lorca is my favourite poet. His verses are lyrical and imaginative, filled with beauty and longing and sadness that in many ways I feel reflects the culture he lived in. I got around to reading his plays last year and they are just as captivating as his poetry. Definitely worth checking out on all accounts.

Spain by Jan Morris — For a bit of non-fiction, I mentioned this book in a previous TTT but I love this travelogue. It’s a very slim volume but her observations and the bits of historical and cultural details that she includes are just fascinating.

Cathedral of the Sea by Idelfonso Falcones — Also mentioned this story a few times now but I picked up this novel at Barcelona while waiting for a train heading to Valencia. It was not only a rich and engrossing read but it made me realise that we should’ve gone to the Santa Maria del Mar while we were in Barcelona ;_; Another reason why I need to go back there one of these days…

Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through a Country’s Hidden Past by Giles Tremlett — I really enjoyed this book, it’s part travelogue, part history & political science piece. You really get a bit of everything in this book, which serves as another great introduction to Spain.


Honourable Mentions: The following would have been mentioned in the above somewhere, I think, but I haven’t read them yet–Jordi Pundi’s Lost Luggage, Idelfonso Falcones’ The Hand of Fatima, Javier Cercas’ Soldiers of Salamis and Dave Boling’s Guernica.

And that’s my list! What books set in Spain are your favourites?

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8 Responses to “List: Books Set in Spain”

  1. As a Spaniard who doesn’t read Spanish literature, I can only say there is a new, young novelist called Carla Montero who wrote “La Tabla Esemeralda” a book that has become quite popular over here and involves art, thieves and WWII. For what I know, it is set in Spain.

  2. Isi

    Here is a Spanish girl!
    I’m glado you liked Spain, even though the heat (you are absolutely right; I live in the north-west, but here is also too hot in summer).
    I have read some of the books you mentioned and I would like to address a recommendation, if you let me: read “The frozen heart”, by Almudena Grandes, one of our best writers. It is also about the civil war (all our authors write about the civil war, you know!), but it’s the best of the best, I promise.
    By the way, I have heard about the “history and age” before, just said by Americans too: they feel as if here in Europe the countries have “more history”. I have never thought about it before, it’s curious 🙂

    • I think the heat was partly tolerable because my family and I kept stopping every now and then for ice cream! =D But that’s interesting that it’s hot no matter where you are in the country (the only place I really anticipated it to be super hot was Madrid since it’s in the middle, lol)

      Ooh, thanks so much for the recommendation! The novel sounds fantastic *adds it on GR* (I love that the blurb is calling it the Spanish Doctor Zhivago *appreciates the Russian reference*)

      Yeah, I think it’s a North American thing, lol. The oldest building in my city is dated around 1794–and it’s a wee log cabin that even I’ve never visited, lol. But I love that in Europe a lot of these old historic buildings are still in use, which is fantastic. And that you can wander around town and see the progression of ages/historical periods =)

  3. There are a few books on this list that I still want to read, it includes: Cathedral of the Sea and The Flanders Panel. I’m going to read your review of Winter in Madrid now, because I loved it!

  4. I LOVE Shadow of the Wind! And it’s interesting reading this list because I’d completely forgotten about the existence of The Flander’s Panel which I quite enjoyed, and Cathedral of the Sea which has been patiently waiting for me on my kindle for years now!

    • Glad you enjoyed the list! Hope you enjoy Cathedral of the Sea, I thought it was especially interesting as I don’t know much about the history of the area…I still have his second book sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read (must be sitting there for a few years now, lol *blushes*)

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