Based on the testimonies of hundreds of survivors of the Spanish Civil War, this novel is the harrowing account of a group of women incarcerated in a Madrid prison. If you like your history intense, dramatic but accurate – this one’s for you. The individual voices of the women are both strong and moving and this is what sets this book apart from other stories of war.
It was first light when the sound of a lorry engine was heard. Hortensia took off her ear-rings and gave them to Mercedes, then hid her two blue notebooks and the document condemning her to death in her shawl. She begged the guard to put them in her work-basket and to give that to her sister as well. They're for the baby, she said.
It was 6 March 1941. In the record of those buried in the East cemetery that day they wrote the first name and family names of seventeen people who had been executed. Sixteen men and just one woman. Just one: Isabel Gomez Sanchez. Hortensia is not on the list. The name of Hortensia Rodriguez Garcia is not to be found on the list of those shot on 6 March 1941. But they say that in the first light that morning, Hortensia stared straight at the firing-squad, as they all did.
'Viva la Republica!'
They also say, and this is true, that a woman came over to those who had been executed, and knelt next to Hortensia.
She was carrying a pair of scissors. She cut a small piece of cloth from the dress Hortensia had put on to die.
And closed her eyes.
And washed her face.