In an attempt to escape from her unhappy marriage, Sonia starts taking salsa lessons and quickly falls in love with dance. Her friend, Maggie soon joins her and together they plan a trip to Granada to take more lessons and dance the nights away in the local bars. While there, Sonia befriends a grizzled cafe owner, and soon discovers an interest in Spanish history, in particular the Spanish Civil War. Upon her return to England, Sonia's father tells her her mother was from Granada and pulls out some old pictures from those days Sonia has never seen before. One in particular stands out. Her mother, in a flamenco dress and pose, reminds her vividly of the girl she saw on the walls of the Granada cafe. Is it her mother? The only way to find out is to return to Granada and hear the tale of the Ramirez family...
The Return is broken into 3 parts. The first and third parts take place in England and Granada in 2001 and focus on Sonia. The second, and longest, part is the tale of the Ramirez family in the 1930's. Father Pablo, mother Concha, sons Anotonio, Ignacio and Emilio and daughter Mercedes. Their trials and tribulations during the bloody and terrifying war are recounted to Sonia as we, the reader, listen in.
The history was so well researched, that, at times, it seemed Hislop tried to cram in things she'd learned, though they really didn't have anything to do with the story. The narrative focus also jumped from character to character rather abruptly at times, which could be disconcerting. However, the prose was well-written and the story was compelling enough to keep me reading. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction or has an interest in Spain would certainly enjoy the history and the mystery of The Return.
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