Death’s Other Kingdom by Gamel Woolsey

Death’s Other  Kingdom  by Gamel Woolsey
Death’s Other Kingdom is an eye-witness account of the start of the Civil War. Gamel, an American poet and the wife of writer Gerald Brenan, paints an evocative picture of life in a poor Andalucian village in the 1930’s and the ensuing perversities, changes and fears as the Civil War atrocities close in.

Gamel and Gerald lived in a quiet backwater village and presumed rather innocently, as did many other foreign nationals, that the rising animosities wouldn’t disrupt their lives. How wrong they were!

Gamel writes about the people, their lives and the emotional turmoil and inevitable changes that occur even to the most peace-loving people in the midst of awful conflict. Fear, rage and worst of all revenge rape human beings of their previous sense of loyalty.

The book is an eye-opener to the incredible bombastic attitude of the mainly British Ex-pats of the day, and Gamel portrays beautifully yet another warped ideology in those awful days of conflict.

This book has been on my must read pile (a list on paper) for a while and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a rare insight into the imminent conflict and all the better in my eyes because it’s written by a woman, which brings to light new insights of the life and times.

It’s simple yet deep, readable and touching without violence, yet the violent days are felt rather than having to be graphically lived through.

Gamel has some great characters in her employment that sum up years of hardship and deprivation, and who display a loyalty and stalwartness to their “innocent foreign” employers.

This is a beautiful historical piece of writing and not really about war itself but about the effect of war on innocent people’s lives.

If learning more about Spain’s past, the effects of the Civil War and life for the locals in the harsh campo of the 1930’s this is a book you’ll walk away from changed, provoked, angry yet inspired by its writer and its people.

That was the gorgeous simplicity of Gamel - who was fighting who or the reasons why, weren’t important compared to the people she knew and her love of Spain. Her fears were more for what was being lost and fear for the people she knew than for her own life. It seems that caring for others gave her some fulfillment that she hadn’t found either before or after.

A great book, although I can’t help feeling it was a sad life that wrote it.
Death’s Other Kingdom has also been re-released under the title Malaga’s Burning in the U.S

Michael Jacobs of Factory of Light fame writes a touching Afterword that I'd recommend be read first for a little more insight into Gamel.

Death's Other Kingdom (Virago Travellers)




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