Five words from the blurb: Christian, oppression, Moors, Arab, conflict
It has taken me over six months to complete this 970 page epic. The book gives a detailed history of 16th century Spain, revealing the horrific violence that took place in Grenada when the oppressed Christians battled against the Arabic Moors. The book is narrated by Hernando, the son of an Arab woman who was raped by a Christian priest. Having mixed blood Hernando finds it difficult to be loyal to either side and through strong friendships with those from both religions he tries to bring peace to the region.
This book is massive in terms of both length and scope. I knew nothing about this period of history, but a basic knowledge is assumed and so I found that I had to research some sections in order to understand what was happening. I also found that having a Spanish map available was helpful, as without knowing the geography it was difficult to know the distances involved for each journey.
The pace was often painfully slow, as many side stories were weaved into the main narrative. I would frequently struggle through 20 pages, abandon the book for a week or two and then try again, only to be caught up in a new plot thread that captured my heart and hurtled me through another 70 pages….where I would then stall again. It was frustrating and gripping in almost equal measure!
This book isn’t for the faint hearted – there are many graphic scenes of rape and violence. The massacres of entire villages are described in vivid detail and I admit that I sometimes skimmed over a few paragraphs to prevent the terrible images from entering my head.
I’m pleased that I read this book, if only to be made aware of this turbulent period of history. I think it could have benefited from being much shorter, but the basic premise of the book was very good.
Recommended to those who love historical fiction and are not afraid to invest a serious amount of time in a long, meandering book.