The Return

The Return Victoria HislopSynopsis

Beneath the majestic towers of the Alhambra, Granada’s cobbled streets resonate with music and secrets. Sonia Cameron knows nothing of the city’s shocking past; she is here to dance. But in a quiet café, a chance conversation and an intriguing collection of old photographs draw her into the extraordinary tale of Spain’s devastating civil war.

Seventy years earlier, the café is home to the close-knit Ramírez family. In 1936, an army coup led by Franco shatters the country’s fragile peace, and in the heart of Granada the family witnesses the atrocities of conflict. Divided by politics and tragedy, everyone must take a side, fighting a personal battle as Spain rips itself apart.

Captivating and deeply moving, Victoria Hislop’s second novel is as inspiring as her international bestselling debut, The Island.



“The Return aims to open the eyes, and tug the heartstrings, of readers who mostly won’t have read Orwell, let alone Cercas. Beyond some clunkily didactic patches, it succeeds. These days, the battle of historical memory against forgetting has to be fought on many fronts. Hislop deserves a medal for opening a breach into the holiday beach-bag”
Boyd Tonkin, Independent (Read More)

“[The Return] should be required reading for anyone going to Spain this year…the historical tale is powerful stuff”
Daily Mail

“executed with verve and sensitivity…an excellent beach read”
Melissa Katsoulis, The Telegraph (Read More)


Books read for Research

The character of Mercedes and the whole story  of the Civil War, which is the backdrop to “The Return”, required lots of reading. When I started reading, the figure quoted for the number of books written about the Spanish Civil War was 15,000, and now the figure that’s being used by historians is about 20,000, so obviously there is no shortage of material. And then there’s the flamenco aspect of the novel, which is very important. It’s a sort of theme in the background. I learnt some flamenco myself. And, as I said before, I watched it a great deal. There’s quite a lot of good flamenco that comes to London. So, I saw a lot here and I saw a lot in Spain as well. The research probably took about two years for that book, but every bit of it was fascinating in its own way. The following is a list of books read during my research for The Return:

In English
  • A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War – Paul Preston (FONTANA)
  • Comrades: Portraits from the Spanish Civil War – Paul Preston (FONTANA)
  • Doves of War – Paul Preston (HARPER COLLINS)
  • Franco – Paul Preston (HARPER COLLINS)
  • The Politics of Revenge: Fascism and the Military in 20th Century Spain – Paul Preston (ROUTLEDGE)
  • The Republic Besieged: Civil War in Spain 1936 – 39 – Edited by Paul Preston and Ann L Mackenzie (EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • Revolution and War in Spain 1931 – 1939 – Edited by Paul Preston (ROUTLEDGE)
  • The Spanish Civil War: A Very Short Introduction – Helen Graham (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • The Spanish Civil War – Antony Beevor (CASSELL)
  • The Battle for Spain – Antony Beevor (WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON)
  • The Spanish Civil War – Hugh Thomas (PENGUIN)
  • The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War – Gerald Brenan (CAMBRIDGE)
  • South from Granada – Gerald Brenan (PENGUIN)
  • Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War – Edited by Valentine Cunningham (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • A Time of Silence:  Civil War and the Culture of Repression in Franco’s Spain 1936 – 1945 – Michael Richards (CAMBRIDGE)
  • Blood of Spain – Ronald Fraser (PIMLICO)
  • The Scalpel, the Sword: The Story of Dr Norman Bethune – Ted Allan & Sydney Gordon (MCCLELLAND & STEWART)
  • The Impact of the Spanish Civil War on Britain: War, Loss and Memory – Tom Buchanan (SUSSEX ACADEMIC PRESS)
  • Modern Spain 1875 – 1980 – Raymond Carr (OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • Battle of Brunete & The Aragon – Frank Graham (International Brigader) (FRANK GRAHAM)
  • The New Spaniards – John Hooper (PENGUIN)
  • Iberia – James A Michener (FAWCETT CREST, NY)
  • Spanish Culture Behind Barbed Wire – Francis Cate-Arries (BUCKNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • The Flamencos of Cadiz Bay – Gerald Howson (THE BOLD STRUMMER)
  • Beyond Death and Exile: The Spanish Republicans in France 1939 – 55 – Louis Stein (HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • The Guernica Generation –  Dorothy Legarreta (NEVADA)
  • In Place of Splendour – Constancia de la Mora (MICHAEL JOSEPH)
  • Federico Garcia Lorca – Ian Gibson (FABER & FABER)
  • The Assassination of Federico Garcia Lorca – Ian Gibson (PENGUIN)
  • Lorca’s Granada – Ian Gibson (FABER & FABER)
  • Blood Wedding – Federico Garcia Lorca (METHUEN)
  • Leah Manning – Ron Bill & Stan Newens (SQUARE ONE BOOKS)
  • Recuerdos: Basque Children Refugees in Great Britain – Edited by Natalia Benjamin (BASQUE CHILDREN OF 37 ASSOCIATION)
  • Only for Three Months: The Basque Children in Exile – Adrian Bell (MOUSEHOLD PRESS)
  • Ghosts of Spain – Giles Tremlett (FABER & FABER)
  • Guerra – Jason Webster (DOUBLEDAY)
  • Duende – Jason Webster (BLACK SWAN)
  • Queen of the Gypsies: The Life and Legend of Carmen Amaya – Paco Sevilla (SEVILLA PRESS)
  • Death in the Afternoon – Ernest Hemingway (ARROW BOOKS)
  • Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway (ARROW BOOKS)
  • Orwell in Spain – George Orwell (PENGUIN)
  • A Rose for Winter – Laurie Lee (VINTAGE CLASSICS)
  • As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning – Laurie Lee (PENGUIN)
  • Heart of Spain: Robert Capa’s Photographs of the Spanish Civil War (APERTURE)
  • Photography of Franco’s Spain – Mondejar (KONEMANN)
  • Homage to the Spanish Exiles – Nancy MacDonald (INSIGHT BOOKS)
  • Spanish Journey: A Portrait of Spain – Adam Hopkins (PENGUIN TRAVEL LIBRARY)
  • Memories of Resistance – Women’s Voices from the Spanish Civil War (YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS)
  • Andalucia – Geoff Garvey and Mark Ellingham (ROUGH GUIDES)
In Spanish
  • El crimen de la carretera Malaga – Almeria, Febrero de 1937 (CALIGRAMA)
  • El Exilio de los Ninos (FUNDACION PABLO IGLESIAS)
  • Granada 1936 Relatos de la Guerra Civil – Various authors (EL DEFENSOR DE GRANADA)
  • Los Barcos del  Exilio – Emilio Calle and Ada Simon (OBERON)
  • Cautivos – Campos de Concentracion en Espana en la Espana Franquista 1936 – 1947 (CRITICA)
  • En las Carceles de Franco – Clemente Sanchez (OBERON)
  • Los Esclavos de Franco – Rafael Torres (OBERON)
  • Victimas de la Victoria –Rafael  Torres (OBERON)
  • Cronicas de la Guerra de Espana – Miguel Hernandez (FLOR DE VIENTO)
  • Los Campos de Concentracion Franquistas Entre la Historia y la Memoria – Javier Rodrigo (SIETE MARES)
  • Verano del 36 en Granada – Manuel Titos Martinez (ATRIO ENSAYO)
  • Granada: De Antano a Hogano: Siglo Y Medio en Fotografia (ARTES GRAFICAS CAMPILLO NEVADO SA)
  • La Republica que Acaba en Guerra Civil – Pio Moa (ALTERA)
  • Viva La Republica – Rafael Torres (LA ESFERA DE LOS LIBROS)
  • La Guerra Civil Espanola: Dia a Dia 1936 -1939 – Jesus de Miguel Antonio Sanchez (LIBSA)
  • Granada in Memoriam (EDITORIAL ARGUVAL)
  • Cine y Guerra Civil  Espanola de Mito a la Memoria (ALIANZA EDITORIAL)
  • Uniformes Militares de la Guerra Civil Espanola – Jose Bueno (LIBRERIA EDITORIAL SAN MARTIN, MADRID)

Buy “The Sunrise”


These are a few of my favourite (Greek) things…

Ergon 16 Picton Place, London W1: superb new Greek restaurant and Greek products - highly recommended. For their website click here.

The Life Goddess which offers some of the best Greek food products in London - and also boasts a fabulous restaurant/café, has become one of my favourite new haunts

Athinaikon Restaurant - 34 Mitropoleos Street, Athens. - Beautiful, Greek food with a twist…

Prosopa Restaurant - Konstantinopoleos 4/Megalou Vasileiou 52, Athens - Delicious modern food in great surrounding, good music…

Akadimias Brizolakia, 61 Akadimias Street, Athens - Simple, well-cooked, traditional…

Athens Daily Secret - for visitors and residents, every day, subscribers to the site are sent some glorious tip or recommendation on something delicious to see, do or taste in Athens.

• There is a beautiful new restaurant on the sea front in Thessaloniki - wonderful food and décor, with vintage toys and adverts - really worth a visit - "Ayioli" at 15 Niki Street, Thessaloniki.

• Costas Voyatzis in Athens introduced me to his hugely successful website featuring extraordinary and beautiful design - do have a look!…

• A recent discovery in Athens Chromata, Skoufa 62, Kolonaki - a great restaurant/bar with fantastic music...

• One of the funniest women I have met in years…
Katerina Vrana

• LIQUID GOLD - The most amazing Cretan olive oil is now being imported into the UK - it has a truly exceptional flavour as well as remarkable healthy giving properties. You can buy it from

• Beautiful olive oil direct from Crete:

• "ILaBoom" makes beautiful miniature light boxes to order. I was given one as a gift(see it here) and it's one of the most delightful things I own.

• Bespoke shoes in central Athens. Kozatsa have been creating them since 1936. They're at 11 Kanari Street, Kolonaki, Athens 106 71 or online at

• The focus of Greek culture and language teaching in Central London, The Hellenic Centre:

• Learn Greek! I recommend Hara Garoufalia-Middle's excellent Total Greek

• Hellenic Bookservice: If you want to get hold of any Greek books, contact [email protected]
Tel: 0207 267 9499