The Exhumation is set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. It is the story of three men: an ex-military man, his intepreter John and a dead boy’s uncle. They travel from America to bring back the body of a young American killed during the conflict.
The trio arrive in war-torn Madrid during 1937 to hear that the body they seek is behind the enemy lines. They make deals, money changes hands and they head out into the night to exhume the body. What follows is an action filled adventure which dips in and out of the civil fighting giving us enough details without it feeling like a history lesson. The trio rubbed shoulders with both miltary officers and civlians caught up in the battles; as a reader I felt it painted a good picture of the war from a relatively neutral point of view.
The story is narrated by John, an artist and interpreter; as the story unfolds John’s hidden skills emerge, and it is his tale which engages the reader in this book. I was very pleased with the balance of description and action, and could easily picture the nighttime bombardments of Madrid, the civilian life and the warring sides. The whole story tales place in just a handful of days which heightens all the tension and keeps the pace rolling. I liked it; I didn’t know much about the Spanish Civil War, but I have come away from this book with more understanding.
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The things we do for others that we would never do for ourselves … love and death in a world at war.
It’s 1937 and besieged Madrid lies in near ruins, its people struggling under nightly bombardments. Into this uncertain world, enter three Americans assigned with the task to find and exhume the remains of Robert Jordan—a member of the International Brigade killed in action—and bring him home for proper burial in the States. They are Jordan’s uncle and the two-man team hired for the job: the amoral but winsome Major Williamson and their interpreter, John, who tells us the story.
Set over the course of three days, amid vivid depictions of wartime Madrid, we follow the team through the violent drama that surrounds Robert Jordan’s exhumation, the human cost of the undertaking, and John’s and Maripaz’s, the beautiful piano teacher he meets during an artillery attack, fateful escape from Spain. More than a wartime tale of suspense set in a crumbling world, The Exhumation is a story about the meaning of loyalty, of love and loss, and finally, the unending search for a lasting ideal.