Summary and book reviews of The Sadness of the Samurai by Victor del Arbol

The Sadness of the Samurai

A Novel

by Victor del Arbol

The Sadness of the Samurai by Victor del Arbol X
The Sadness of the Samurai by Victor del Arbol
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  • Published:
    May 2012, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Book Summary

A betrayal and a murder in pro-Nazi Spain spark a struggle for power that grips a family for generations in this sweeping historical thriller.

Fierce, edgy, brisk, and enthralling, this brilliant novel by Victor del Árbol pushes the boundaries of the traditional historical novel and in doing so creates a work of incredible power that resonates long after the last page has been turned.

When Isabel, a Spanish aristocrat living in the pro-Nazi Spain of 1941, becomes involved in a plot to kill her Fascist husband, she finds herself betrayed by her mysterious lover. The effects of her betrayal play out in a violent struggle for power in both family and government over three generations, intertwining her story with that of a young lawyer named Maria forty years later. During the attempted Fascist coup of 1981, Maria is accused of plotting the prison escape of a man she successfully prosecuted for murder. As Maria's and Isabel's narratives unfold they encircle each other, creating a page-turning literary thriller firmly rooted in history.

Mérida, December 10, 1941

It was cold, and a blanket of hard snow covered the train tracks. Dirty snow, stained with soot. Brandishing his wooden sword in the air, a child contemplated the knot of rails, hypnotized.

The track split into two. One of the branch lines led west, and the other went east. A locomotive was stopped in the middle of the switch junction. It seemed disoriented, unable to choose between the two paths set out before it. The engineer stuck his head out of the narrow window. His gaze met the boy's, as if he were asking him which direction to take. Or that was how it seemed to the small child, who lifted his sword and pointed to the west. For no real reason. Just because it was one of the possible options. Because it was there.

When the station chief lifted the green flag, the engineer threw the cigarette he was smoking out the window and disappeared into the locomotive. A shrill whistle scared off the crows resting ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I have to applaud any author who can weave so many threads into such a smart, fascinating yarn... If you like your thrillers simple, straightforward, good-guys/bad-guys, this is not a novel for you. But if, like me, you like to savor a sophisticated chiller then by all means dig into this one.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review (351 words).

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Media Reviews

Booklist
Tension oozes from every page… a gripping thriller that rivals the suspense of Alan Furst's Night Soldiers and C. J. Samson's Winter in Madrid.

Library Journal
An intriguing story of espionage, sex, and betrayal… this historical thriller does not disappoint. Readers who enjoy detective fiction, historical fiction, and psychological thrillers will find plenty to engross them.

Kirkus
Starred Review. A deftly plotted thriller that combines narrative momentum with literary ambition... masterful… A literary page-turner.

Author Blurb María Dueñas, author of The Time in Between
Haunting and disturbing, this magnificent novel reminds us that the door is never completely shut upon evil or the past.

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Beyond the Book

Struggle for Democracy in Post-Franco Spain

Victor del Árbol's The Sadness of the Samurai begins in pro-Nazi Spain and takes place over three generations - the perfect political backdrop for the violence, betrayal, mystery and murder that takes place in the novel. Every nation struggles with its own demons, and 20th century Spain was no exception - experiencing civil war, dictatorial leaders, worker unrest, nascent democracy, and in 1981, a coup d'état that threatened to topple the newly formed democratic government.

After ruling Spain for nearly four decades, dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975. His appointed heir, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbón took over as King and lost little time restructuring Spain's government into a constitutional monarchy with a ...

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