Death of a Nationalist Paperback – Feb 1 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
The immediate aftermath of the Spanish Civil War provides the bleak setting for Pawel's stirring first novel. Madrid in 1939 is filled with bomb craters, desecrated churches and nearly abandoned streets, while black markets are just about the only markets with anything to sell. The hatreds and atrocities shared by the Nationalists (supported by the fascists) and the Republicans (supported by the Communists) still simmer and erupt in sporadic violence. The Guardia Civil has the responsibility to maintain authority-and their enthusiasm and ruthlessness for enforcing order terrorizes the citizens. The intertwined fates of Sergeant Tejada Alonzo y Leon of the Guardia Civil and that of Gonzalo Llorente, a wounded Republican in hiding, are handled with unusual skill and subtlety. When Tejada arrives at the scene where a murdered comrade lies, he leaps to a conclusion about the killer's identity. He must follow a tortuous path to find the real killer and, ultimately, redemption. Gonzalo has lost his love as well as his hope for any kind of future. His one aim is for a small measure of vengeance before he dies. Pawel is unsparing in her depiction of the casual brutalities spawned by the war, but also offers evidence of the power of little civilities and kindnesses in a novel that easily transcends the formulaic crime story.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for Death of a Nationalist
"Pawel anchors a tense and exciting story with a terrific and complex plot."
—Detroit Free Press
"An intriguing tale amid the gloom of war-torn Madrid. It is a humane and moving portrait of a divided people coming to grips with the virtues of enemies and the villainy of friends."
"[Pawel] turns the clock back to 1939 and Madrid’s tumultuous past . . . An intriguing juxtaposition of the political and the personal."
Top Customer Reviews
Rebecca Pawel wonderfully evokes the setting of Spain just after its bloody civil war that put Franco into power. Much research went into this extremely well written debut. In fact, the immediacy of the setting brings to mind the war torn novels of J. Robert Janes. There is much poverty and misery on the streets where a simple bar of chocolate would be almost impossibly expensive to obtain. Tejada is a complex character. He evokes mixed feelings in the reader. In spite of summarily executing a prisoner, he reveals a great deal of depth in his views and aspirations. He honestly believes in the Nationalist cause and his strong convictions that he is right make him a sympathetic figure to the readers. The plot is relatively simplistic and not lengthy. A worthwhile and recommended read.
Sergeant Tejada Alonzo y Leon of the Guardia Civil sees a woman in red standing over the murdered body of his heroic best friend Paco Lopez. He assumes she is a communist killer. He asks no questions as he murders the woman, but quickly realizes his mistake. Driven by guilt he searches for the real culprit. Meanwhile when Gonzalo Llorente learns that a Guardia murdered his beloved Viviana; he vows vengeance
Though a crime story at its heart, DEATH OF A NATIONALIST is much more as Rebecca Pawel showcases the impact on various people from the Spanish Civil War. The story line is graphic as it describes the horrors of war on the armies and the atrocities fostered by both sides on the civilian populace. The lead duo and the support cast seem genuine representing various factions with the key players enabling the audience to see the impact of violence on everyday people as well as on fascist and communist zealots.
This is post-Civil War Madrid and Tejada is part of the winning side's armed force helping to establish the new Francoite regime and clear out any "Reds" or supporters of the losing Republican side.
I was nervous initially on reading the blurb for this book as I wondered if I would enjoy a novel which appeared to be sympathetic to Franco's supporters. I need not have worried. In fact, the story is told from more than one point of view. Tejada is a major character but so is the dead woman's lover, her young niece and her niece's teacher.
The dead woman was trying to retrieve her niece's school notebook with her homework. It's not long before Tejada realises that his assumption may have been wrong and finds the notebook, prompting him to investigate further. While he's searching for his friend's killer, the dead woman's lover is looking for her killer, ie Tejada.
This turns out to be less a mystery about good and evil than one of shades of grey, though I do think Pawel's sympathies are ultimately with the republicans. It's a complicated and absorbing story, but the real strength of the book which stood out for me was skill in characterisation, and I found the portrayal of thoughts and feelings in reaction to historical situations a different and very convincing approach to writing a historical novel.
I hope I get a chance to read more books by this author.
The investigator is Sgt. Tejada, a respected grizzled veteran who increasingly questions the official party line as he gets accustomed to life after the Civil War. A compelling character, he soon finds himself tangled in a complicated case involving the black market which may or may not be linked to his friend's murder. (French crime writer Didier Daeninckx employed a somewhat similar plot in his 1995 book, A Very Profitable War, set in Paris just after WWII). Meanwhile, a wounded republican must evade capture by the Guardia and mete out his own revenge. The two men's stories both revolve around vengeance, redemption, and hope-seen from opposite ends of the spectrum. Pawel manages to do this without creating a hero and villain dynamic-both are sympathetic, and both are flawed.
Ultimately, the book is rather grim and unsparing, and thus true to the nature of civil war. It's a very good debut, although readers without some previous knowledge of the Spanish Civil War may not get as much from it. If the setting is of interest, check out Alan Furst's spy novel, Night Soldiers, which is set partly in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, and Vittorio Giardino's graphic spy novel No Parasan!, which vividly captures battle-scared Barcelona of the era.