Dave Boling is sports columnist for my local newspaper and I have enjoyed his writing for years, even though I am not a sports fan. Guernica is his first novel and describes a particular Basque family during the years between World War I and World War II; it has absolutely nothing to do with athletics. At our hometown book signing, he spoke of the passion of the Basque people, which he has learned via his Basque wife. Those passions are clearly evident in the people he brings to life in Guernica.
There are also a few actual historic figures in this work, but they do not get in the way of the primary threads involving the main characters. The town of Guernica is also an actual place and has definite historical significance both to the Basque culture in general, and to the early history of World War II in particular.
Two generations of the central family are followed in the story, together with the relevant details of the prior and future generations. These people are truly interesting and it is very easy to feel comfortable in their world. Although spirited, none of them comes across as annoying or irritating, which is refreshing; the antagonists are clearly the politicians of the time period.
And yes, this book covers war-associated events, so there are some very depressing sections. What is interesting is how the author has placed the negative events in the context of the book as a whole. Even though World War II is still in the early stages at the end of the narrative, we are presented with a positive, hopeful finish. These people have taken some lumps for sure, but they are not about to be defeated.
The only thing lacking here is more specific information about the history and culture of the Basque region and its populace. I found these characters so fascinating that I had to hit the encyclopedia to find out more about them. It would have been nice to have had more details in the book itself. That said, Boling did mention at the book signing that the publisher forced him to scrap a few hundred pages from his original work. Maybe that was the stuff.
Rated: Mild. The intimate events were very tastefully done, with no graphical descriptions. The worst language involved using the Lord’s name in vain (18 incidents) and 6 scattered s-words. A handful of other mild terms are also found, mostly in the early chapters.