Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My favorite Spanish authors

           Reading is not only enjoyable, but it is one of the most wonderful exercises you can do for your brain. I love summer time because that’s when I have more time to devote to reading. When my kids were younger, they had enforced reading time daily, with longer reading periods in the summer (they could choose whatever they wanted to read and we took frequent trips to the library, but no outside playing until their reading was done) and now that I see how successful all four are, I’m very happy I did that.
          My novel is set in Spain, and thus today’s blog is dedicated to my favorite contemporary authors from there: Laura Gallego, Toti Martinez de Lezea and Maria Dueñas. In reverse order, Maria Dueñas’ The Time in Between, which I read with my book club, is a lovely novel set during and immediately after the Spanish civil war, which took place from 1936-1939.  The narrative occurs in both Madrid and Northern Africa, and is an entertaining story about a young woman who is an unworldly and inexperienced seamstress who does a lot of growing up just to survive during that difficult time period. There are spies, interesting plot twists, lovers, and you get a close look at how Spain struggled between being drawn into World War II on the German side or remaining neutral and perhaps a bit friendly with the allies. Maria is a debut author, and this novel put her on the bestsellers lists in Spain. It’s a long book, and she does get a little carried away sometimes with her musings, but overall it’s a very good read.
          A good friend of mine in the Basque Country, who lives close to where my own novel is set, introduced me to the works of Toti Martinez de Lezea, a Basque writer whose books predominantly take place in the 1400’s-1600’s, many in northern Spain. I’ve read 5 of her books so far, and I plan to read another one this summer. Her pace is slower, and if you like learning about life in the medieval times, she’s a good one to read. She does extensive research for all of her novels, and you feel like you are learning so much as well as being entertained when you read them. La Calle de la Juderia, for example, follows the life of a Jewish family in the mid 1400’s, and we learn about how Spanish society functioned with Jews, Arabs and Christians all getting along before the Inquisitors began their notorious crusades. It’s an excellent story. La Herbolera, which I also loved, follows the life of a young woman who trained and worked as a midwife, and whose people still followed the pre-Christian beliefs which involved respecting nature and worshipping the goddess, Mari. It is based on a true story that led to 13 women being burned alive for witchcraft. And then there’s El Jardin de la Oca, where the Camino de Santiago, that famous pilgrimage across the northern part of Spain, all the way to Santiago de Compostela,  is traced by the main characters, a Jewish doctor and a Muslim pharmacist who become close friends while running from a deranged persecutor, a monk who has been ousted from the Catholic church for his barbaric actions, but who has evaded capture and is on a rampage to rid the world of non-believers. Toti’s books have been translated to many languages, but I haven’t found them in English yet. Good news is that you can get them on Amazon, and the kindle versions are less than $10 each.
          I’m most passionate about the books of this last author. If you like fantasy, you will love Laura Gallego’s trilogy Memorias de Idhun set primarily on two planets, Idhun and Earth. This series is on my list of top ten favorite books I’ve ever read--it’s a very cool story full of adventure, romance, intrigue, wars, and magic. I don’t want to give any of the plot away, so I’ll just say the story is like Harry Potter meets Star Wars. Unfortunately, these books have not yet been translated into English either, but if you know some Spanish—you don’t have to be fluent—I heartily encourage you to try to read her books. The story is fascinating, enchanting, thrilling—I’m sure they will be on the New York Times Best Sellers List once they get translated, and they have been immensely popular all over Europe and are now hitting Asia. I work as a translator and it is my dream to translate these books. I’ve even written to the publisher who’s translated some of her other books here in the U.S., but they have not responded. Americans (at least the ones who don’t read in Spanish) are missing out on this great story—what a shame!
         So, happy reading! Feel free to comment on your favorite authors, and in future blogs, I’ll write more about my favorite ones too. People who know me well know that I could talk about authors for hours!
Here are links to these authors:
Toti Martinez de Lezea: http://martinezdelezea.com/ (and there is a link to her blog too, including some entries in Euskera, the Basque language.)
Laura Gallego’s Memorias de Idhun: http://www.lauragallego.com/mdi1.htm