Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Maria J. Nieto
This fictionalized socio-biographical account of a young girl growing up, partly in Madrid and partly in the Castilian countryside, during the time of the Spanish Civil War, as well as in its devastating aftermath, when Spain came under a repressive totalitarian regime, is both heartwarming and poignant. Rather than sticking to the point of view of the central character, Mari, who starts out as “a small six-year-old child who . . . woke up one morning to the preamble of what would become an upside-down world of adult confusion and fear”, Maria J. Nieto, who herself is a survivor of the same period in Spain, and who later became a mental health professional in the United States, has chosen to relate the narrative in third person from both the level of a child growing up in a tempestuous and deeply troubled world, and from that of the adults who play an important part in her life. The unique perspective that such variation in perspective allows enables the reader to grasp the full significance of the conflict through the eyes of both young and old, making this work a truly cross-generational study of the implications of civil war. The potential audience for this book is, therefore, very broad. One can place this novel on a par with Anne Frank’s Diary, and it deserves similar recognition.
Although the pithy and unsentimental tone of “Breaking the Silence: A Novel of Spain’s Civil War” is gut-punching in its harshness, strong elements of compassion for both sides are clearly evident. Despite the brutalities committed by the Moroccan invaders under Spanish Fascist command, the redeeming qualities of the young soldier Boabdil are revealed in an astoundingly humane and empathetic way: “He grew sad, always tired and homesick in a strange, unfriendly land.” The simplicity and directness of the story should be enough to stir even the most war-hardened heart, and this work should be considered for therapeutic ends with those who have been traumatized by having had to endure situations of military conflict.
In addition, for those with an interest in all things Iberian, and who find the unflinching spirit of the stoical Spaniard admirable in its strength and resilience against what has often seemed to be insurmountable odds, Breaking the Silence is bound to be received with warmth and gusto. Nieto has done her subject proud, and deserves the highest acclaim for her heroic commitment to the passionate support of those among whom she was born and raised.