When Rose, a young English nurse with humanitarian ideals, decides to volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, she is little prepared for the experiences that await her.
Working on one front after another, witness to all the horrors of war, she falls in love with a Republican fighter, Miguel. In 1939 as defeat becomes inevitable, Rose is faced with a decision that will change her life and leave her with lasting scars.
Interspersed with Rose’s story is that of Consuelo, a girl growing up in a staunchly Catholic family on the other side of the ideological divide. Never quite belonging, treated unkindly, she discovers at a young age that she was adopted but her attempts to learn more about her origins are largely thwarted.
It falls to the third generation, to Consuelo’s daughter Marisol, born in the year of Franco’s death and growing up in a rapidly changing Spain, to investigate the dark secrets of her family and find the answers that have until now eluded her mother.
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And now Barbara Lamplugh with:
FACT TO FICTION
I didn’t really think about writing fiction until I had children. My first two books were travel narratives, the first describing my overland journey by truck to Kathmandu in 1974, the second an account of my 1975 trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway and by boat to Japan. It was soon after I returned from that second trip that we decided to start a family, which obviously meant letting go of any ideas for more extensive travels – at least for the foreseeable future. But it didn’t mean goodbye to writing. I could conquer my addiction to travel (becoming a mother brought its own rewards) but I saw no reason to go cold turkey on my recently acquired addiction to writing. It would just have to be a different kind of writing.
I wrote my first novel while I was pregnant and carried on writing fiction throughout the years of bringing up my children. I love creating characters and a story, which fiction allows me to do. It involves the imagination in a way that travel writing doesn’t yet I can still use my descriptive, travel writing skills to build a setting that is both vivid and authentic. It seemed only logical to set my novels in Britain where the culture was familiar. After all, I’d been immersed in it all my life, absorbed it from birth.As it happened, none of those six novels was published – whether from bad luck, lack of persistence or because I was still honing my skills – but they served to keep my creativity alive and taught me some useful lessons.
When I moved to Spain in 1999, my previous travel writing experience came into its own again. I found work as a features writer for the English magazine Living Spainand also wrote occasional pieces for The Guardian. At the same time, I continued to write fiction. It took a few years but there came a point when I began to feel sufficiently connected with the culture of my adopted city and country to locate my writing as well as my life there. Secrets of the Pomegranate, my first published novel, was set in Granada, though the three main protagonists were English by birth. To write from the perspective of Spanish characters, whether historical or contemporary, presented a much greater challenge. It felt imperative that what I wrote should be authentic enough to convince Spanish as well as native English readers. But did I have the necessary in-depth understanding of the Spanish mind-set and culture, contemporary and historical? After all, I was an outsider here too.
In writing The Red Gene, I took on this challenge. After years living in a country, you get the flavour, the feel of how people think and speak, an insider’s familiarity with the culture. It’s more than just the landscape, the customs and habits, the daily routines; it’s something much more fluid and difficult to define, the psyche of a nation, shaped by its history. Of course, each of us is unique, the differences between individuals huge: it’s important to avoid generalisations and stereotypes. And perhaps I’m being a little arrogant in thinking that I’ve managed to capture this, even after twenty years. What I do know is that I now feel out of touch with life in my birth country. I’m not sure I could write convincingly any more of contemporary life in Britain. Cultures don’t stand still and some of the cultural references familiar to my family and British friends no longer mean much to me.
As I became more absorbed in my new country and learnt more about its recent history, had conversations with – in particular – older Spaniards, the story of The Red Gene began to form in my mind and eventually became compelling.
Thank you to Barbara Lamplugh for being featured on my blog today!