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Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past Paperback – March 4, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[Tremlett] paints a rich, multicolored canvas of one of Europe's most fascinating nations.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“This well traveled journalist…knows his subject as he ventures through the past to explain the present personality of a country so varied that even in modern times its complicated medieval legacy is part of everyday life.” ―Washington Times (Ann Geracimos)

“Tremlett has written a smart and highly readable book that mixes incisive political history with sophisticated cultural reporting.” ―Seattle Times (Robin Updike)

“[An] incisive and engaging book….[Tremlett's] sober analysis of how the Madrid train bombings of March 11, 2004...exposed deep fissures in Spanish society is the best report I've read on the subject….[A]n invaluable book. Indeed, since it appeared in Britain last year, 'Ghosts of Spain' has become something of a bible for those of us extranjeros who have chosen to live in Spain. A country finally facing its past could scarcely hope for a better, or more enamored, chronicler of its present.” ―New York Times Book Review (Sarah Wildman)

“ [An] affectionate, deeply informed tour of the country…. a highly informative, well-written introduction to post-Franco Spain. Mr. Tremlett's taut recounting of the 2004 train bombings in Madrid makes especially timely reading, with the suspects now on trial.” ―New York Times (William Grimes)

“Mr. Tremlett['s]...affectionate yet critical intimacy with the country helps to make this book much more than an ordinary journalistic survey….Extended residency has...allowed Mr. Tremlett to gather off-beat stories distinctly revealing of his adopted land.” ―Wall Street Journal (Francis X. Rocco)

“[A] provocative and vividly written book that is part history, part political and social commentary, and part love letter….This book should be in all public and academic library collections on Spanish history and culture.” ―Library Journal

“Tremlett…went native almost immediately upon his arrival in Spain twenty years ago. He wants us to see, hear, touch, and taste exactly why….there are pages here on almost every exemplary, cautionary, and symbolic aspect of Old Spain and New.” ―Harpers (John Leonard)

“[A]n evocative, often poignant sojourn through the as-yet uncleared psychic mists of the civil war.” ―Star-Tribune (Michael J. Bonafield)

About the Author

Giles Tremlett is the Guardian's Madrid correspondent. He has lived in, and written about, Spain for the past twenty years.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; Reprint edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802716741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brandon Wilkening on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a great journalistic account of the social and political changes that have transformed Spain up to the present day. Tremlett discusses the country's past and present in fairly equal measure. He begins by looking at the legacies of the Spanish Civil War, discussing how only in the past decade has the full scale of the atrocities that took place come to light. He discusses how Spaniards whose relatives were killed by the Francoists have pushed in recent years for their relatives to be given decent burials. He also writes an interesting chapter on Franco's overall legacy, arguing that after his death and the country's transition to democracy he has been largely purged from public discourse. Despite this collective amnesia that he identifies, Tremlett points out that the same left-right cleavage that drove the war still lurks below the surface of Spanish society. The book also contains chapters on the Basque, Catalan, and Galician regions. Tremlett provides very insightful analysis of the origins of and main forces behind Basque and Catalan nationalism, while his chapter on Galicia details that region's emergence as a conduit for Columbian cocaine. One of my favorite chapters looked at gender relations in Spain, in which Tremlett provides some very amusing anecdotes that reveal contrasts between Spain and his native Britain. This chapter also discusses Tremlett's quest to understand the paradox of how a country can be so awash in brothels (which, he reports, 1/4 of Spanish men visited) yet relatively conservative in terms of the sexual mores of its people.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Having been to Spain a number of times since 1991, I always sensed that Spain was "different" from any other western European country. REcently I attended a Hemingway field study in Madrid by R. W. Burda, and I read this book before and during my stay. I can't say enough about the book--Giles Tremlett must have researched for years. I highly recommend this to anyone visiting or living in Spain as an expatriate, as Tremlett himself does. He begins with the ghastly Civil War years (perfect companion piece to the understanding of Hemingway's FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS and SUN ALSO RISES), the Franco years, pointing out that King Juan Carlos is the first-ever king elected by a dictator! For a country full of loquacious people (138,000 bars in Spain, more that any other European country!), they are eerily silent about the painful past. ...if you want to start to understand what makes Spaniards tick, read this book. Better yet, buy it along with a ticket to Madrid and read it there in all the tapas bars you can manage to get to!
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Format: Hardcover
A British journalist who has lived 20 years in Spain, married and raising his 2 children in Madrid, the author investigates, reveals and muses upon Spanish culture, history and the forces of the "two Spains" as they come together, or rub against each other, in forming the modern Spanish world. A fascinating look at Spain, its subcultures from the Basques to the Catalans to flamenco to the Galicians, to drug culture to tourism and the very difficult and delicate process of choosing to forget the differences of the Spanish Civil War and Franco's regime in order to move forward in a country that was once the most powerful on earth.

I like Spain and its history. This is one of the very best insights into modern Spain. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have time to read only one book about Spain, Ghosts of Spain, would be my pick for you. I have been to Spain several times: to Valderama for the Ryder Cup; to the Pyrenees to hike; to Barcelona to see Gaudi's works; to Bilbao to see "Puppy" and the Gehry Guggenheim; and to Guernica because of Picasso's painting of the same name. There is little in Spain that hasn't captured my interest. Ghosts of Spain has pulled together my varied experiences and has made sense of them. Ghosts is rich with history, pre- and post Franco, and with a devoted admirer's unravelling of modern Spain's political, economic, artistic, and social sensibilities. Read Ghosts and you will arrive in Spain to find that Giles Tremlett has given you an amazing gift, a "Rosetta Stone" for Spain. Whether you speak Spanish or not, Tremlett's Ghosts will make the new and the strange feel familiar. If you already know Spain, I suspect that Ghosts is even more of a "must read."
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Format: Paperback
The book starts off well and I was happy to have found it. I'm interested in the material and Tremlett's voice is sure and affable, if a little too excited. (For a journalist, he seems to be unusually prone to shock. In one house he's confronted by a large painting of Hitler, gasps involuntarily and flees, despite the situation being germane to the book he's writing.)

But I abandoned the book a quarter of the way through: I couldn't bear the repetition, sometimes from page to page or even paragraph to paragraph. It's as if the writer laid out his outline, pinned each collected anecdote and tale to the appropriate branch over a long period of time, then wrote the book one short bit at a time, each piece complete in itself. The problem is the next story might be completed with the same commentary as the last. The result is page after page of parallel anecdotes resulting in insights which, as good as they are, don't have to be repeated a dozen times. The Spanish have been united in an unspoken pact to forget the past, we are told, again and again and again and again. And again and again.

The first hundred pages of the book - as far as I got - would have made an excellent fifty pages but so much of the filler is repetition that annoyance eventually overwhelms the pleasure of reading. The rest of the book may not suffer from this odd repetitive twitch but I didn't have the patience to find out. I'm giving the book three stars for the material but in terms of the reading experience, it's a frustrating, two star book.
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