A few weeks ago I read and reviewed a Spanish crime novel that left me almost speechless. El guardián invisible by Dolores Redondo has been on the Spanish best-selling lists for 3 years, and there is a reason why. You can check my spoiler-free review here if you missed it or download a promotional PDF here.
The trilogy was born out of a wish to write about different aspects of life and the traditional culture in the Basque Country and Navarra, an area in Spain with a different tradition, related to matriarchy, an important historical heritage, their own language, Euskera, and the consequences of having been the place where most witch trials were celebrated by the Spanish Inquisition; an abrupt – yet green – environment and the closeness to the French border make this a perfect place to speak about the magical tradition, which has merged here with Christianity and which is still alive nowadays. There was also a real life inspiration: a couple belonging to a magical sect sacrificed their 14-month old, a theme present in the trilogy: being hurt by those who should protect you – sadly something pretty in fashion right now – the perverted faith that justifies murder as an offer to the gods, demons or any other godly creature that could feel praised.
You make a great job of representing violence agains women in different stages of their lives. But you also show that there is a way out, especially with the help of other women and that is something new in crime fiction. Could you tell us a bit more about this issue?
My work won an award from the Instituto de igualdad por la defensa de las víctimas (Equality Institute for the Defence of Victims), not a very bookish award, but one that makes me really proud.
Traditionally, women have been in charge of both businesses and the homes, since men were sailors who migrated to America for long periods of time, so feminine roles have never been seen as a challenge to men’s masculinities. It is true that women’s independence – women who lived alone, midwives, healers, all with an economic independence and a some kind of control over maternity even from the Middle Ages –led the Catholic Church to prosecute, condemn and burn dozen of my own ancestors for witchcraft. The novel – The Invisible Guardian – is set nowadays with an all-female family in a very similar environment, but also completely ware of others’ incursion on their own lives. This usually creates conflicts, but it extraordinarily strengthens women’s role in society, in their relationship to their partners, and professionally.