If anyone out there is interested in Spanish history and culture or enjoyed Giles Tremlett’s The Ghosts of Spain, this is a good choice. Hooper, like Tremlett was a Guardian correspondent in Spain. This book is meticulously researched and covers all aspects of Spanish life from society, such as education, crime, bull fighting, and women, as well as the politics of the country detailing the transition from dictatorship to democracy, nationalist movements, and the role of the royal family.
It is full of interesting little facts about the country. It is clear how traditional areas of the country still are, such as the town of Pardamaza that had no electricity until 1996 despite the fact it is only 20 miles from a motorway. Also, the so-called French, Coquilles Saint-Jacques is actually originally Spanish, it is a traditional food in Santiago de Compostella, where the scallop shell is the traditional symbol of the pilgrims on their way to visit the shrine of St James. I had one while I was there and it was delicious.
If I was Hooper I might have been a bit upset about Tremlett writing the Ghosts of Spain, as it is a very similar type of book, but I noticed that Tremlett gets an acknowledgment, so I suspect they are mates. It is a shame that this updated edition of the book was written before the financial crisis as obviously this means it is dated. This edition was written during the economic boom so is presents a much more positive view of the Spanish economy than proved to be the case.
My only criticism would be that it seems rather long and a little repetitive. I read the first part super-speedily but started to find the second half a bit ‘samey’ so I would recommend not trying to read all this in a short space of time and reading maybe a few chapters a week. This however, is a really informative and illuminating read about Spain and recommended for anyone who wants to know more about this fantastic country.