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Yearning for a change, Steven Nightingale took his family to live in the ancient Andalucian city of Granada. But as he journeyed through its hidden courtyards, scented gardens and sun-warmed plazas, Steven discovered that Granada’s present cannot be separated from its past, and began an eight-year quest to discover more.

Where once Christians, Muslims and Jews lived peacefully together and the arts and sciences flourished, Granada also witnessed brutality: places of worship razed to the ground, books burned, massacre and anarchy. In the 1600s the once-populous city was reduced to 6,000 who lived among rubble. In the next three centuries, the deterioration worsened, and the city became a refuge for anarchists; then during the Spanish Civil War, fascism took hold.

Literary and sensual, Steven Nightingale produces a portrait of a now-thriving city and the joy he discovered there, revealing the resilience and kindness of its people, the resonance of its gardens and architecture and the cyclical nature of darkness and light in the history of Andalucia. At once personal and far-reaching, Granada is an epic journey through the soul of this most iconic of cities.


This isn't a conventional piece of flit lit by an expat intent on sending up the locals while tending to his smallholding. From sensual celebration of the garden in his carmen, Nightingale moves on to scholarly consideration of the place of the garden in Moorish culture, the history of the barrio beyond it, and then the glories of Al-Andalus, visiting 'provinces of mind and experience' from medicine to music.
Michael Kerr, The Telegraph
An exuberant and beautifully written book and as packed with information as a pomegranate is with seeds. Steven Nightingale possesses a keen tactile sense of place; his approach is refreshingly sensuous. He delights in the colours, the smells, the voices of Granada; he appreciates the city's contours with his fingertips as well as his eyes. His chapter on the Alhambra is especially fine... we feel the effort he puts in and his resulting delight. So, too, his discussions of Andalusian music are especially moving. The family takes an unabashed, quite sensuous, pleasure in the hospitality, the conversation, the food and wine they share with their new friends. Much of the charm resides in the fact he often seems to observe Granada through the wide-open eyes of his young daughter. This gives his explorations a spontaneity and freshness.
The Wall Street Journal
His book is not only a memoir of one family's communion with a dream house, it's the unearthing of a long-buried dream of civic harmony, a reawakening. Even if you have visited Granada and walked the labyrinthine ways of the Albayzín, Nightingale makes you want to go there again, to see it with new eyes.
The New York Times
Every sentence sparkles. This book is a love story, a history book, a homage to victims of intolerance and mistrust, a celebration of the magic of human achievement. Read it then book your flight.
Poet and novelist Nightingale (The Wings of What You Say, 2013, etc.) makes his nonfiction debut in this rhapsodic paean to the Spanish city, where he, his wife and young daughter now live part of each year. A romantic homage to a city 'perfected by catastrophe' and transformed into a place of 'concentrated joy.'
Kirkus Reviews
None since Gerald Brenan in the 50s has so lovingly mastered Spain in its Gothic, Muslim, Jewish, and Spanish faces. Who reads this book relives all Iberia, from medieval convivencia to Franco nightmare. A profound delight.
Willis Barnstone, author of Sunday Morning in Fascist Spain
A fascinating historical overview and an unabashed love song to Granada.
One of the delicious literary genres is the book about a writer's love affair with a city. Mary McCarthy's Stones of Florence and Edmund White's Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris come to mind. Steven Nightingale's Granada takes its place in that radiant company.
Robert Hass, author of What Light Can Do and The Apple Trees of Olema
Nightingale's intimate reflections and succulent style present a textured picture of the city and its people, culture, and antiquity. Armchair travellers will find themselves easily lured through the portals of history hidden in brick and mortar, tiles and tilled gardens.
Publishers Weekly
Granada is the rarest delight -- a book that is as wise as it is vibrant and alive. To read its pages is to be transported back in time through centuries, interwoven with folklore, history and with the dreams of mankind. I recommend this book most highly. It opens a window into a magical world, an Andalucian garden all of its own, one inspired by Paradise.
Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House
Armchair travel enthusiasts and those who are interested in Spanish and Islamic history will enjoy this tale.
Library Journal
Each page of this deeply personal book is a revelation, and a confirmation that darkness is never permanent. Darkness begets beauty. Nightingale writes that conviction into every sentence.
Robert Leonard Reid, author of Arctic Circle and Mountains of the Great Blue Dream
Opening Steven Nightingale's lyrical Granada is to split a pomegranate that pours out a galaxy of seeds. The seeds will give forth branches of poetry, music, science, mathematics, philosophy, agriculture, medicine, and all the marvels of Andalusia. Yet even as they transport you on their various journeys they remain rooted in a family garden in Granada - a beautiful garden that, thanks to the author, you will know and love as he does.
Thomas Christensen, author of 1616: The World in Motion