When Clarence of Rabaltué discovers a series of old letters from her father’s past, she begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about her once-noble family. Her father and his brother worked in the colony of Fernando Po, but these letters tell a different story than the tales of life in Africa that made it to the dinner table. Clarence has no idea what really went on during their time at the cocoa plantations—or why no one in her family has ever returned to the island in all the years since. But the letters suggest that a great love story is buried beneath the years of silence.
Setting out from her home in Spain’s snowy mountains, Clarence makes the same journey across the sea that her uncle and father traveled before her. There, she unlocks the painful secrets her family has hidden in the rich African soil. But what she discovers may also be the key to awakening her own listless heart. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)
This was a book that I was interested in to understand some of the colonial period for Spain. Then, I was more interested in understanding who did what, and how the mystery aligned within the family. Ultimately, however Gabas delivered so much more than a simple reveal, but instead a story infused with love, politics and the complex situations forced upon the family. I loved that the great reveal ended up being much more complex than I was guessing and that we got a deep dive with both generations of the family.
One of the other things I really appreciated in the book is the unflinching perspectives about colonialism, race, dynamics on the island and where loyalties lie. Often, it feels that retrospective views on situations are over-simplified and don’t do the country justice. “Palm Trees in the Snow” gives an authentic view of why people would have conflicting views and, ultimately, created political turmoil for those caught in the middle of it.
Warning: Contains sexual content and violence.
Rating: 5 stars!
Who should read it? Highly recommended! Anyone willing to dive into the complexities of multi-generational families and interacting with the colonial legacy.