High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets.
Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, the garden, laden with orange blossom, grown wild. Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years.
Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed in her mother's will, she has left her job as London's leading perfumier to restore this dilapidated villa to its former glory.
It is the perfect retreat: a wilderness redolent with strange and exotic scents, heavy with the colours and sounds of a foreign time.
But for her grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed here during Spain's devastating civil war, Emma's new home evokes terrible memories.
As the house begins to give up its secrets, Emma is drawn deeper into Freya's story: a story of crushed idealism, of lost love, and of families ripped apart by war.
She soon realises it is one thing letting go of the past, but another when it won't let go of you.
High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, the garden, laden with orange blossom, grown wild.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books
- Publication Date: 01/04/2012
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781848879331
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Review by DubaiReader
Good in parts.Although this book opens brilliantly with a scene between the two famous war reporters that made up Robert Capa, it quickly degenerated to something rather mediocre, with chapters that were too short to really get the feel of the characters. With each chapter ending we switched again, either back to the Spanish Civil war of the 1930s, or forward to the modern day, 2001.The historical section was fascinating and I learned a lot, but I felt that the 2001 thread was merely a tool by which to reveal the events of the past. I would have loved to have had the book set entierly in the 1930s. The descriptions of the refugees streaming into France, the fate of the Spanish children and the Brigades of foreign nationals fighting for a cause were excellent.Two characters link the past and the present - Freya, a volunteer nurse, and her brother, Charles, who has joined with the Republicans as a journalist, hoping to let the world know about the atrocities.In the current time period, Freya is Emma's grandmother and Charles, her Uncle.Liberty, Emma's mother has recently died and left her daughter the key to a villa in Valencia, Spain, and a box of letters. Emma is also suffering a second loss and hopes that a move to Spain might help her 'find herself' again.This modern day section was markedly weaker. I didn't get the feel of Emma as an outsider, nor did I sense that she and the Spanish villages were speaking a different language. How did Emma come to be so fluent in the language that there were no misunderstandings? This was topped with a finale that was quite unbelievable and let the book down with a crash. Even the house didn't feel like the same place, in 2001 it seemed to be a mansion of rooms, yet during war it felt more homely and cramped.I have scored this 3 1/2 stars as I did enjoy parts of it and I learned about a period of history that I had not read about before, but I would not particularly recommend it.