This week mark's the anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, which is a bit of coincidence as I've just finished reading Barbara Lamplugh's novel, The Red Gene, which is set in Spain and begins during this unsettled period of Spanish history.
The red gene in the title refers to the perception by the authorities that anyone who supported Marxist ideals must have a genetic flaw. Many families of those who fought against the fascist dictatorship were tarnished with the same prejudice, often suffering social isolation. In some cases, the fate for some children would be worse. But I won't say more. Read the book to find out!
The author, Barbara Lamplugh, who I met at an author gathering in Bristol a few years ago, has always been an ardent traveller and writer. Having fallen love with Spain she decided many years ago to leave England and move to Granada, where she still lives and where her first published novel, Secrets of the Pomegranate is set.
The Red Gene is a poignant story of "love, loss and reparation," as the eloquent quote says on the cover, and you can read my review of the book below.
The dedication gives a clue as to the basis of the story. It mentions the scandal of stolen babies in Spain, from the time of the Spanish Civil War until an alarmingly recent date. I remember hearing the news reports when the scandal was exposed to the world and so I was fascinated to read the book.
At the start we meet Rose, a young nurse who goes to Spain to help those wounded in the conflict. There she falls in love with Miguel, a young man trying to defend his country from the fascists. Sadly, their story doesn’t end well. To say more would reveal too much but what happens will have an impact on Rose which will last her lifetime.
In parallel to Rose’s story, we follow the life of Consuelo, a young Spanish girl who grows up feeling that she doesn’t quite fit in with her siblings and her staunchly Catholic family. We have our suspicions as the reason for this and read on, intrigued to discover the full truth.
The book spans many years. Consuelo becomes a mother and a grandmother. We follow her hopes and fears, experience the joys and woes that life throws at her. Rose, meanwhile, having returned to England at the start of WWII, picks up the threads of her own life, even though her Spanish experience never leaves her.
This emotional story teases you. Things don’t happen the way you except, the way you want them to. There’s another twist. It taunts you, urging you to read on. Will it pan out the way you want it to? Time’s running out. You find yourself racing to find out, desperate for a resolution.
The ending is heartfelt, poignant and satisfying. And will bring a tear to your eye. An engaging and touching story.