on 30 September 2001
this is a model of how to write history. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of six biographical essays of characters central to the spanish civil war of 1936-39. They range from a brilliant portrait of Franco to the communist Dolores Ibarruri, whose son would later die fighting the nazis at Stalingrad.
All these essays are fair minded and critical, they give an excellent picture of what I had always assumed was a black or white conflict, but instead saw sensible, intellignt people forced to take extreme positions. Reading this I can understand that for those who fought in Spain their Spanish Civil war will never end.
on 12 July 2007
I strongly suggest this book to anyone who wants an overview of the Spanish Civil War told through the lives of some of its leading figures. The war itself is fiendishly difficult to get your head around in all its complexity so this is a rather good intro to it. In addition, the quality of the writing is consistently high and the writer's sensitivity to his subjects almost makes you feel as if you know them. The book taps into a broad range of emotions, depending on your standpoint. At moments I laughed out loud, but other sections bring a tear to the eye.
on 18 March 2008
This book is absorbing, lucid and entertaining, but I would warn those who only have a little knowledge of the actual events of the Spanish Civil War and the rhyme and reason for the conflict to check out Preston's other books which are more conventional in relaying the historic events (or just brush up on the basics online etc). I've been fascinated by the Spanish Civil War since reading Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, but my knowledge of the myriad organizations and individuals involved is still patchy, and this book probably would be best read with that kind of background knowledge.
Having said that, the short biographies of each individual paints a very human picture of men and women involved in the same conflict in differing ways. Even if you don't know all the ins and outs of the war, it's still worth a look, it may just not flow so easily as a read.