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SPANISH RECOGNITIONS: The Road from the Past

Mary Lee Settle, Author
Mary Lee Settle, Author . Norton $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-02027-4
Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-393-32717-5
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Traveling through Spain's central provinces from Castile to the southern coast in a "beautiful small rental car, a Real ; stick shift, balance and weight perfect for speeding," novelist Settle (The Beulah Quintet ; Blood Ties ) makes a point of this being a solo trek ("To be alone by choice is one of the great luxuries of the world"). With this engaging, lucid recollection, personal, but not self-centered, she's the perfect guide for a vicarious journey through a land where "history intrudes everywhere." Footprints of Visigoths, Romans, Moors, Muslims and Falangists appear all along the path; Cervantes looms large. Settle encounters El Cid in Zamora, Unamuno in Salamanca and Lorca and St. John of the Cross in Granada. St. Teresa, who "wasn't afraid of God, the king, the papal nuncio who tried to stop her, or the devil himself," emerges in Avila, and in Tordesillas, Settle finds the queen whom history refers to as Juana la Loca de Amor, but whom Settle sees as "the victim of a hostile takeover." She sights the explorers (Cortes, Pizarro, de Soto, Balboa) in their Extremadura hometowns and recounts the Knights Templar's tale in Jerez de los Cabelleros. Settle, an "eighty-two-year-old grownup," delights in discovery, is curious about the old, possessing an intellectual-quest spirit and ageless wisdom. Clearly in love with the "people so beautiful," "the scene so handsome," Settle invites readers to follow in her footsteps and see out of her eyes. Map, 12 pages of illus. not seen by PW . (Feb.)

Forecast: Readers of Settle's previous travel book, the well-received Turkish Reflections (1991), as well as fans of her novels, will enjoy this book.

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