Granada, 1920. Free-spirited Luisa and young poet Eduardo fall in love, cementing a bond that can never be broken.
Behind the jasmine filled courtyard, perched amongst houses like clouds on a hilltop, stands a beautiful villa; Carmen de las Estrellas. Beneath its walls live Eduardo and Luisa with their thriving family, but war is looming, casting its shadow over the household.
When Civil War finally breaks out, Luisa and Eduardo must fiercely protect those dear to them. Yet these are turbulent times, and as each of their children begin to make their way in the world, the solace of home cannot shield them from the horrors of war.
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The Poet’s Wife is the hugely impressive debut from Rebecca Stonehill. A sweeping historical family saga spanning three generations of women, this book was just amazing and I loved every minute of it. Set in Granada, Spain from the 1920’s, through the civil war and right up until the death of General Franco, this story had me hooked right from the prologue and it’s not often a book can keep me enthralled in such a way. To be honest I think I would have bought this book without even reading the blurb as the cover is just absolutely stunning, the colours are so eye-catching and make the female character look so intriguing and mysterious. There was just the right amount of historical detail to inform people who may not know much about the Spanish Civil War .Too often authors go overboard with detail and the reader can become bogged down in facts which can ruin the flow of the story. Not so in this case.
We first meet Luisa as she encounters and falls in love with the poet Eduardo; soon they are married and start a family. Isabel is their first born and as the novel progress each chapter alternates between mother and daughter and later also Isobel’s daughter Paloma. Sometimes novels that have each chapter told from an alternative viewpoint can be very confusing, just as you are becoming familiar with one character the chapter ends. The Poet’s Wife was not a bit confusing instead the flow was perfect and I felt I was really getting to know each character and how the tumultuous years of Spanish upheaval affected each generation of women in this family.
Luisa was a strong, determined woman and a wonderful character that set the tone for the entire book. She supports her family and always wants what’s best for them while hoping to live in a peaceful country. Eduardo was a lawyer by trade but was obsessed by poetry and if ever asked said he was a poet. For me Eduardo was the weakest of the characters, he didn’t seem much of a strong force in the family at a time when they needed it most. Yes, he was very selfless regarding the issue surrounding his brother Miguel but overall he just seemed constantly worried and not that likeable a character for me .Life is not always easy and soon the civil war erupts and everything the family had taken for granted changes forever. Isabel leaves Granada to work as a nurse even though she is only sixteen and soon falls in love with Henry Stevens a British soldier who has volunteered with the war effort. Now begins the seamless transition into the next phase of the novel, where we learn how the civil war has a lasting effect on future generations of Spanish families most notably Isabel’s daughter Paloma.
Raised in a Republican family Isabel realises she has come from a life of privilege while others have had a much more difficult upbringing .Witnessing the horrors of war has a profound effect on her and how she views her life. Tragedy befalls her family and having become so attached to this family I was heartbroken to see them go through such tough times. But that is the reality of war and the author was not afraid to write about the harsh blows most Spanish families had to endure. Rebecca Stonehill has clearly done plenty of in-depth research for this book and her love of Spain just leapt from the page. The descriptions are fantastic and you really got a feeling you were there living and breathing alongside the family.
The writing throughout the book was just beautiful and breath-taking evoking so many emotions joy, sadness, love and heartache to name but a few. One line that struck me was ‘I see my past, my present and future all coming together and winding their strands of time around his’. I have to admit this brought a tear to my eye as I could just feel the love Isabel had for Henry.
The Poets Wife is a powerful book full of emotion and characters you really care for. I became totally immersed in the story and didn’t want it to end. A cast of strong female characters, a multigenerational saga and a historical element are exactly what I look for in a good book and this delivered all the above and much more . Dare I say this was just as good as a Victoria Hislop novel and up there with The Separation as my book of the year!
Many thanks to Sharon for sending me this to review.