Review published on November 9, 2017.
A Vineyard in Andalusia is one of those books that you become completely immersed in because it has the perfect combination of detail, which transports you to another time and place, and exciting action accompanied by plenty of plot twists.
María Dueñas is a brilliant storyteller who immediately draws you into the world of Mauro Larrea, a mine owner in Mexico, as he learns that an investment has failed because of the American Civil War and he is all but ruined. He makes a deal with a money lender and sets off to try to raise money, first to Cuba where he gambles on a billiards game and then to Spain. The rich historical detail of these places in the 1860s comes over so well. An enormous amount of research must have been needed, but it never intrudes upon the storytelling.
In a way, this book has the feel of an old fashioned novel or ripping read, as Larrea moves from one adventure to the next, but it is satisfying on other levels too. Larrea is a fascinating character who meets his match in Soledad, a feisty and brave woman with her own problems to resolve. The minor characters are also very well drawn and completely believable. Then there are the family secrets revealed at the end, which tie many of the different plot strands together.
A Vineyard in Andalusia features a compelling story, realistic characters you care about as well as an excellent balance of background detail and exciting action – I really enjoyed it. It would be a good choice for reading groups too, with plenty of issues to provoke discussion.
Berwyn Peet 5/4
A Vineyard in Andalusia by María Dueñas
Scribe UK 9781911344469 pbk Nov 2017
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