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Victus: The Fall of Barcelona, a Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 9, 2014
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“With extraordinarily gut-wrenching descriptions of bayonets, bloodshed and battle, and the terrors and tribulations inflicted upon besieged Barcelonians, Piñol makes real a tragedy that shaped Spain and Europe.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“It is not often that you encounter a book that you feel will be read with the same fervor 100 years on but Albert Sanchez Piñol’s fourth novel, an ambitious historical epic…is magnificent in scope and details.” (Upcoming4me.com)
From the Back Cover
In this sweeping tale of heroism, treason, war, love, and regret, Albert Sánchez Piñol breathes new life into the infamous siege of a legendary city.
At the turn of the eighteenth century a dark cloud looms over Spain. Her "bewitched" ruler dies without a clear successor, pitting two of Europe's most powerful kings against each other for control of the crown. Caught in the crosshairs of war, the Catalonian state finds herself in a bloody contest for independence. Abandoned by their allies and outnumbered tenfold, the defiant and ill-equipped citizens of Barcelona defend their homeland with vicious determination.
Martí Zuviría, an accomplished military engineer and tactician with the power to change history, leads the defense against the Bourbons, but he is torn between his loyalties and his purse. Politically ambitious yet morally weak, Martí fights on both sides of the long War of the Spanish Succession, carefully navigating a sea of Machiavellian intrigue and betraying the city he was commended to keep.
Rich in color and characters, abundant in epic battles, and illustrated with stunning portraits of war, Victus is a magnificent literary achievement that is destined to become classic.
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As a historical novel, Victus is something of a mixed success. We must credit Pinol with giving a compellingly vivid account of the savagely contested siege of Barcelona. As essentially the culmination of a civil war between Castille and Catalonia within the context of the larger European war of Bourbons vs. Allies, the action feels closer in nature to the fury of Stalingrad than what we would customarily think of early 18th Century siegecraft. Wherein a fortress governor would resist just long enough to meet the formulaic timeline for what constituted a defense worthy of being granted surrender with the “honors of war”. No doubt even relatively bloodlessly resolved sieges wouldn’t have seemed so gentlemanly to the poor soldiers laboring in muddy trenches, but the sacrifices of Barcelona’s civilian population to the last full measure made this an unusually protracted and bloody affair by the standards of the age.
The author makes some errors, such that the knowledgeable reader may form the opinion that Pinol did just enough research to plausibly set a novel in the War of the Spanish Succession, but no more than he had to. Or not enough in some cases, as the constant and inaccurate use of the term “rifle” instead of “musket” got on my nerves throughout. I assure you, the distinction is more than a matter of button-counting pedantry. The use of one or the other would dictate fundamentally different tactics. Really, even the most cursory research would reveal that line infantry were armed with inaccurate smoothbore muskets in the early 1700’s, and indeed well into the Napoleonic Wars and beyond. I have to wonder if Victus falls between two stools militarily: not quite up to snuff for 18th Century military buffs, yet containing too much of it for the average reader who for example, cares not a whit about the progress of Lord Stanhope’s campaign of 1710. Overall, I didn’t get an entirely convincing flavor of the Baroque era from this book. In part, because of some anachronisms such as a gratuitous gay liason.
Hopefully this review won’t come off as too negative. I’d rate Victus as worth a read and for me, well written enough to be a memorable if not well-loved book.
Written/translated in a slightly pedantic fashion it mimics the language as spoken at those times.
In it's 9th printing, translated into 11 languages in only four years, it's MUST read even if you're not planning to visit Barcelona. And soon to be a movie to boot!