On the 23rd of April one of the most popular festivities in Catalonia takes place: Sant Jordi, their patron saint. What in other places is celebrated as the World Book Day, in Cataluña there’s a different tradition, a combination of culture and romanticism. A special day dedicated to couples, lovers, roses and books as the main characters.
In Barcelona’s case, streets become decorated with roses, books stalls and people who don’t want to miss out on this special day. Many writers join the streets to sign their books, whilst bookshops open their doors to show readers the best novels up to date. You can find as many genres as you can imagine but just because Barcelona has so much to offer, we have decided to list the best books that set their stories in the Condal City.
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
Cathedral of the Sea has been one of the latest sensational best sellers there has been with their story based in Barcelona.
Falcones, the writer, after documenting himself in the city’s history, recreates the moment in which the Santa Maria del Mar basilica, located in El Born (or La Ribera) started being constructed back in the 14th century.
The history is set in the medieval times, a period in history where the Condal City lived a moment of fortune and success. The novel tells how the fishing neighbourhood of La Ribera decided to start one of the most ambitious architectonic projects at the time: Santa Maria del Mar, a basilica which would soon become the biggest religious marine temple of the time.
The book travels around some of the outskirts and neighbourhoods of the city such as Plaza Sant Jaume, where today you can find the Generalitat government and the town hall, and also Pla de Palau, the square that back in the day was Barcelona’s most famous as it was located next to the sea and was the door to the city.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Carlos Ruíz Zafón makes the most of the Condal City to create a mystery-romantic story throughout several areas of the Catalan capital: Tibidabo Avenue, Las Ramblas, Plaza Real or the Gothic area are just some of the recurring sceneries.
The Shadow of the Wind is contextualized in the mid-20th century when you could still breathe some of the last splendours of Modernism until the post-war days.
This novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón intertwines branches and secrets all together, focusing the whole narrative on Daniel Sempere, a boy who one day finds a cursed book at the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books. Since the moment Daniel reads the first page, he finds himself immersed among mysteries, love stories, intrigue and riddles. Without a doubt, the Shadow of the Wind has been one of the most outstanding best sellers of the recent times.
Last Evenings with Teresa by Juan Marsé
With Last Evenings with Teresa, Juan Marsé takes us away from the touristic areas of Barcelona to talk about other neighbourhoods that throughout time have been forgotten. More specifically, Marsé’s story is centred in El Carmel, a quarter which in its’ origins was distinguished by being one of the most insecure and neglected of Barcelona.
The novel is based on a love story between two young adults, Teresa and Manolo, more known as Pijoaparte. Teresa is the daughter of a Catalan bourgeois family and Pijoaparte is a local of El Carmel. She is a bit blatant but with financial means and an “easy life”, whilst he is a mischievous boy who struggles in his neighbourhood and aspires to achieve a higher social status.
Last Evenings with Teresa wanders through all sorts of areas of Barcelona: from the high part of the district of Gràcia, to Turó de la Rovira or Plaza de Sanllehy as some examples. Everything is described with a very subtle sharpness doing a small recall to the tease that helps Marsé criticize the Catalan bourgeois of the times.
In Diamond Square by Mercè Rodoreda
In Diamond Square is without a doubt one of the most renown novels set in Barcelona. The title refers to a square located in the Gràcia district, a neighbourhood where most part of the story takes place.
The narrative is contextualized in Barcelona during the Republic, war and post-war times and handles with care the story of how Natalia, also known as Colometa, lives her marriage. Many of the situations described in the book can be extrapolated to the majority of women at the time: doubts, uncertainty, submission, obedience, naivety, joy or happiness among some of the feelings that arouse while you read the novel.
The City of Marvels by Eduardo Mendoza
The City of Marvels portrays in a very reliable way the evolution of Barcelona during the World Exhibitions that took place in 1888 in Ciutadella and in 1929 in Montjuïc. Both exhibitions transformed and made the Condal City known to the rest of the world, hence the name of the novel.
Mendoza takes us to that Barcelona generation that evolved to an industrialized society and economic prosperity. The sceneries that appear in the novel are several: Moll de la Fusta, the walk and the monument of Colón, the fountain of Montjuïc or the chimneys of Poble Sec as some of the iconic elements of Barcelona that come up during the story.
These are some of the novels set in Barcelona although the list could keep on. Barcelona inspires and makes you fall in love, so are you ready to join us and read one of our recommendations set in Barcelona?