After having enjoyed Hughes’ Goya so much I decided to give Barcelona a whirl. This book is a mixture of history, art, culture and politics, spaning some 2000 years. I can’t say I enjoyed Barcelona as much as Goya, although I did get a lot out of the book. Sprawling histories for me can lack focus, and I think you just go from one event to the next, one key personality to the next key personality, and it’s hard to get attached to any one theme in particular. Whereas with the Goya book, it had this marvellous intimacy, and you felt like you were travelling through Goya’s fascinating psyche.
I hope the above doesn’t sound like a negative review. It’s not meant to be. This is a fine, excellent book, written in Hughes’ great style. The sections on the Catalan poets I especially enjoyed. The parts on the rise of the anarchist movement were fascinating. Plus the final chapter on Gaudi – that strange, eccentric, ultra-conservative catholic figure – was a real eye opener.
If you are a student of Catalan or Spanish history, I’d say you’ll find this book to be a must. However, if like me, you don’t know much at all about Catalan history or culture, you may feel like a bit of a stranger at times travelling through this rich, dense book.