Granada: The Light of Andalucia by Steven Nightingale

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Granada: The Light of Andalucia by Steven Nightingale

Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Liz Green
Reviewed by Liz Green
Summary: A historical account of the centuries that shaped Granada from the Moorish occupation to the Civil War
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: May 2015
Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1857886313

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Don't expect (as I did) a Parrot-in-the-Pepper-Tree type collection of comedic mishaps and tales about the joys -- and perils -- of joining a new community. This is, more than anything, a history book, albeit one in which the writer's deep love of his adopted home (Granada and, more specifically, the Albayzín, the district he lives in), his family and his neighbours makes every sentence sparkle. Even better, it's a history book that assumes no knowledge on the part of the reader. Steven Nightingale covers centuries of events in Spain, describing them with clarity and in a typically engaging style. He starts with the Moorish occupation of Spain in 711 and ends post-Civil War. Despite its vast chronological span, the book is more than a dry recounting of events and dates. Yes, that information is there, as befits any good history book. But Steven Nightingale's focus is more on the effects of these historical events, and the achievements of the times, particularly the ongoing legacy of the Moorish occupation. He writes in detail about Arabic poetry, the timeless nature of love, developments in maths, science and the arts, geometry in tiling, and much more.

Steven Nightingale also talks, of course, about conflict, religion, convivencia, the dramatic backward slide of the country following the Christian Reconquista, the Inquisition, the maelstrom of the twentieth century... Reading a book about Spanish history could indeed be a maudlin experience. However, he manages to end with a positive message of hope: the modern Albayzín, his beloved home, which he portrays as a beautiful, safe and loving community, is in fact the product of centuries of death and conflict, the perfect example of good arising from something evil. Likewise, his section on Lorca dwells more on the beauty of Lorca's work, and the immense popularity of the poet and playwright today, than on the tragedy of his death (although his description of Lorca's final months is typically sensitive and considered).

The timeline jumped around at times: a more chronological narrative would have made this book a slightly easier read, and more useful as a reference book. This is compensated in part by a good index, however. And most pleasing is the excellent, wide-ranging bibliography that makes you itch to get to a library.

This book is a love story, a history book, a homage to victims of intolerance and mistrust, a celebration of the magic of human achievement. Read it then book your flight.

Further reading: For a novel about life in fifteenth-century Spain, try Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell – Orwell’s seminal account of his involvement in the Spanish Civil War

Buy Granada: The Light of Andalucia by Steven Nightingale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Granada: The Light of Andalucia by Steven Nightingale at

Buy Granada: The Light of Andalucia by Steven Nightingale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Granada: The Light of Andalucia by Steven Nightingale at


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