There is a Ted Hughes poem, in Birthday Letters, entitled ‘You Hated Spain’. Apparently Sylvia Plath hated Spain (where they went for their honeymoon, unfortunately). I always joke that we should read this poem at my mum’s funeral, as she is most definitely not a fan of Spain. Which is funny, because the rest of us all love Spain.
It’s one of my favourite places. It makes me think of lying around in the hot sunshine with my grandmother, with a bottle of gin and a giant bag of crisps on the go. Or drinking beer on the beach and skinny dipping with my girlfriends. Or, ironically, eating seafood paella and swimming in the sea with my mum, as a tiny child in a stripy swimsuit. Feelings all soaked in sunshine and deep joy, anyway. And femaleness. Spain is a very female country to me.
Semi-relatedly (stick with me), a great many of my favourite books have come from random second-hand finds, which I have known nothing about but been taken by the cover or the blurb – it’s really a great way to find secret gems. My excellent friend and new Brighton resident Chris – AKA Mister Jones and His Guitar – was playing a Saturday afternoon gig in the Oxfam bookshop in Brighton recently. So of course I could not resist dropping in and buying a stack of books while I was there.
The cover of ‘This Too Shall Pass’ (‘También Esto Pasará’) by Milena Busquets looks very Spanish. It also has a pull-out quote on the back that I instantly fell in love with:
“To the best of my knowledge, the only thing that momentarily alleviates the sting of death – and life – without leaving a hangover is sex.”
So true. No wonder I read it in one sitting and I loved it. To take us back to the beginning, it really encapsulates beautifully those sunshine-soaked girl times in Spain that I am so fond of. History and friendship and family, sex and death, grief and joy. It’s great on all of the above, in a very elegant style.
Coincidentally, it is set in Cadaqués, a place I have long been fascinated by and desperate to go to. It has gone right up the list of dream destinations now. And this little Spanish gem might have sneaked into my list of favourite-ever second-hand bookshop finds.