At the age of 82, historian and award-winning writer, Mary Lee Settle took a solo trip to Spain. It wasn’t her first visit but it was her first exploration of life both past and present.
I love and wholeheartedly agree with the books opening sentences.
“To be alone by choice is one of the great luxuries of the world. I went to Spain alone.”
Partially a travel narrative but mostly a history lesson, she’s added greatly to my understanding of the varied, violent and amazing history of Spain through the ages.
Her voyage of discovery leads her to experience and learn far more than she hoped for and travel more than her loose itinerary proposed.
Visiting the birthplace of St. Teresa and the original Walt Disney castle in Segovia, Mary shows us her thoughts and expresses her feelings in rich life-giving writing.
She gets herself lost in the gardens of The Alhambra in Granada, in both place and time. Her writing conjures up vivid images to me and I’d love to see her trip made into a film for the world to step into the shoes of her experiences.
Mary Lee Settle traces the Moorish history and the Christian Reconquista, sharing and showing how the wars and Regal feuds of the centuries have shaped the people, art and literature of today, both in Spain and the discoveries they made of the New World.
She travels from Zamora in the north to Granada in the south, eager to understand and bring to life for us the history she’d only read about before.
That’s exactly what charmed me about the book, and Mary Lee Settle, the child-like eagerness on her travels. The joy of her discoveries that she makes so tangible to the reader.
I was with her in the Palace at the Alhambra and driving through the wild and winding mountain roads. I was in awe of her and perhaps jealous too of her complete contentment in being on her own in a strange land with only a smattering of Spanish.
This wasn’t a light bedtime read. I didn’t skip words or paragraphs to find out what happens at the end. No, this was a slow leisurely enjoyable read, an entertaining and informative tale of one woman’s incredible journey. For me she’s an inspiration to get up and go, alone if need be, and learn more about those roads of the past which lead us to the present.
Spanish Recognitions is an important addition to the library of any lover of Spain, its culture, its history and its present day.