On 19 August 1936 Hercules the boxer stands on the quayside at Coruna and watches Fascist soldiers piling up books and setting them alight.
With this moment a young carefree group of friends are transformed into a broken generation.
Out of this incident during the early months of Spain's tragic civil war, Manuel Rivas weaves a colourful tapestry of stories and unforgettable characters to create a panorama of twentieth-century Spanish history.
For it is not only the lives of Hercules the boxer and his friends that are tainted by the unending conflict, but also those of a young washerwoman who sees souls in the clouded river water and the stammering son of a judge who uncovers his father's hidden library. As the singed pages fly away on the breeze, their stories live on in the minds of their readers.