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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
23
4.3 out of 5 stars


TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 30 May 2014
William Chislett is a former journalist who has been based in Spain over the years not least during his stay as the Financial Times correspondent in Madrid during the democratic transition of the 1970s. His knowledge of this intriguing country is second to none and frankly in a market which has been cornered in the UK by the ubiquitous historian Paul Preston its good to hear another voice. The title of the book almost suggests a "Spain for Dummies" style thesis when in fact this is a sprightly romp through the entirety of Spanish history from the legacy of the Moors, the rise of the Spanish empire and the Golden Age right up to Franco, the emergence of King Juan Carlos and finally topped off with the blessed transition back to democracy.

Chislett reflections and analysis are crisp and often witty. He is particularly good on Franco fatigue with a dictator who looked at one time that he many live forever. He mentions the long running joke that thousands of Spaniards "had short index fingers for every year they tapped surfaces with it while saying that this really was the year when Franco would die". The dictator left the perception of a country which was a backwater with nice beaches packed with tourists. The poison legacy of the civil war, the all pervasive role of the Catholic church and the growing distance of elites from the population give Spanish society its own highly distinctive character. "Spain is different" might have been a tourist slogan in the 1960s but it does encapsulate the frustration of a country still defined by stereotypes. Chislett highlights the usual suspects not least bull fighting, the siesta, Flamenco and Don Quixote. In respect of the latter Cervantes legendary character would have a fine old time in Modern Spain titling at wind farms with the country being the second largest producer of wind energy after Germany.

Chislett's book is jam packed with wonderful little factoids but the primary purpose of his book is bring the reader up to date with the recent economic crisis despite the fact that at least one Spanish institution Banco Santander came out of this all guns blazing and hoovered up many of its sickly British counterparts. In this context despite the model of a largely peaceful democratic transition tensions loom large. He notes a failure to tackle judicial reform, and the abiding challenges posed by regional nationalisms particularly in wealthy Catalonia and the more militant Basques. Equally he reflects that the Spanish economic boom of past decades has led to "the myopic political class, increasingly perceived as a caste, being widely blamed for an unsustainable economic model excessively based on bricks and mortar and far too little on knowledge". This passage of course could equally apply to another country with a considerable former empire, namely Britain.

This reviewer enjoyed Chislett's book "Spain: What everyone needs to know". Indeed the author skilfully navigates through complex events in Spanish history from which the reader emerges clear headed and thankful for properly understanding key events. At less than 200 pages this is not a heavy read and those approaching Spanish history and society for the the first time this is a "libro" well worth owning.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 May 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is part of `What Everyone Needs to Know' book series. The author is a veteran journalist William Chislett. He gives an overview of Spanish history and in doing so places Spain's current political and economic woes in some form of contextualised frame work. Issues such as immigration, collapse of its construction industry, the call by certain regions for independence from Spain and its chronic unemployment. These are just some of the head line grabbing issues that affect Spain - its place within Europe and its future.

What was Moorish Spain and its' legacy?

What are the impacts of European Union membership on Spain, and the adoption of the Euro?

The Basque separatist group ETA and Catalans' need for independence.

The authors' style is to supply the reader with lots of data and factual information. This information is then conveyed in a question-and-answer format that allows readers to quickly zero in on areas of specific importance. Overall a good read that can be funny at times. I found the narrative engaged you from the get go - it helped me to better understand Spain's place in the world today with its' rich and complex history.
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VINE VOICEon 19 June 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have always thought that Spain is a fascinating country. I was born in 1971 so my main picture of Spain is as a sun-drenched holiday destination on the one hand and a wonderful multi-cultural, tolerant liberal democracy on the other (I love Madrid and Barcelona). I have always been aware however that until the 70's Spain was a very different place indeed.

This fascinating book covers Spain's past briefly and then really starts going into detail from 1939 when Franco established his dictatorship. Covering the countries relationship with the rest of the world and the internal power struggles as well as the place of the church.

It then explains the changes the country underwent when the dictatorship ended (amazingly not until 1975) and the country began its, sometimes difficult, transformation into the Spain of the modern world.

The book is organised as a series of mini-essays where the author asks a question such as "What was the opposition to Franco's regime" and then takes a few pages to answer, where appropriate backing the views up with statistics. At times I found this approach to be a little bit jarring and would have liked a more flowing text but this is not a big enough problem to stop me whole-heartedly recommending this book to anyone who would like to learn a little bit more about how this country became the fascinating place it is today.
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VINE VOICEon 18 May 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
No one can argue that Spain is among the big beasts of the euro zone, a country boasting high profile companies from banking to oil and gas. However, all is not well with this beast. The financial crisis and subsequent property market crash have taken their toll. At present, the country has one of the highest unemployment rates in the euro zone, rising public debt and low consumer confidence. To understand Spain's current economic malaise, one must contextualise the past - from recent politics to socioeconomics issues, from past histories to recent discontent. Veteran journalist William Chislett's brilliantly concise book on the country helps you do just that.

The author, who had his first brush with Spain in 1970s and has lived there since 1986, begins the narrative by touching on the country's often turbulent history from the seventh century to the Franco years, and recent past either side of the Madrid bombings.

Chislett demonstrates strength in brevity, as this book of just under 230 pages, split into seven parts touches on the key protagonists who shaped or help shape Spain for better or for worse. In each case, from Franco to Zapatero, the author has interpreted trends and sentiments as he perceived them with a sense of balance, wit and proportion which is admirable.

Privatisations of state-owned companies from telecommunications to banks and of course that oil and gas behemoth called Repsol are duly mentioned with details of how, when and why Spain crossed that bridge. With the summary done, Chislett turns his attention to what lies ahead for the euro zone's fourth largest economy currently grappling with huge socioeconomic problems.

You can literally breeze through this splendid book and be wiser for it if Spain interests you. I am also happy to recommend it to students of economics, the European Union project and those of a curious disposition with a thirst for improving their general knowledge about a country, its people and the challenges they face as a nation.
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on 2 July 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A lively and comprehensive guide to a fascinating and varied country. The narrative is well written, engaging and often funny in an affectionate way.

All bases are covered- economics,politics, social structure and history- and you will end up after reading it very well informed. Can't go wrong with this book really if you want to really understand Spain.
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on 24 May 2017
The best serious book on Spain
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on 29 September 2013
A really clear description and analysis of Spanish society and politics as they are now, and set in the context of a quite racy yet thorough and well documented account of the historical structures and events that set the scene against which current events take place. If you do not believe me, and why should you, then you can believe Paul Preston and Felipe Fernández-Armesto. Radical, affectionate and unsentimental.
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on 19 December 2013
A book containing so many statistics might be dull - but this one is just full of life. It's beautifully written, funny, and gives a portrait of Spain which is both honest and affectionate. I'd recommend it to anyone, however well they (think they) know Spain already.
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VINE VOICEon 17 July 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is a nice addtion to the format, where a country is discussed through a Q&A format. Not great for an actual tourist book, but strangely well presented to allow the initiate a grasp of most common topic of interests (so that you can impress someone at say- the dinner party)

Interestingly, this book is top heavy on the current era (post EU), albeit with heavy nods to Catalan nationalism and Franco. I am uncertain whether the cultural and "fun "aspect is to accessible to the English reader, but I found some notable absences of certain topics.

I would recommend for the person who is interested in an overview of Spain.
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on 2 November 2013
In these 200 pages, I learnt about my country more than reading newspapers for 15 years. Objective information, clever observation, clearly writen. Brilliant.
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