the guardian Fri 01 May 2009
Bohemian Maggie and conventional Sonia take a short break in Granada in search of tapas, salsa clubs and handsome strangers. Instead, Sonia meets Miguel, an elderly cafe-owner whose collection of bullfighting and flamenco memorabilia features familial resemblances that seem uncannily familiar. Hislop's second novel will no doubt give the Granada tourist board the same boost The Island gave Crete, as it follows exactly the same formula. This time the background for thwarted passion and the slow revelation of dark family secrets is the Spanish civil war, a humanitarian disaster rather beyond Hislop's GCSE-level analysis: "In this conflict it was sometimes hard to say who was completely without blame." The storytelling is solid enough, though Hislop cannot restrain herself to one cliche where there's an opportunity to bolt two together: "Sonia was being swept off her feet and she had no desire to feel the ground beneath them." At one point she ponders whether "women were hard-wired to weep". This book has been hard-wired to make them do it.