The theme for the second week of Spanish Lit Month is books from Spain itself. The Island is an autobiographical novel first published in 1959 (it has been translated into English before as School of the Sun; this 2020 translation is by Laura Lonsdale). 

Fourteen-year-old Matia has been expelled from her convent school and sent to stay with her grandmother on Mallorca. It’s a hot, stifling place, where the closest thing Matia has to a friend is her good-for-nothing cousin Borja. The Civil War means that Matia has to stay there, come what may. 

There are frequent references to fairytales, and the book in general has a distinctively hazy atmosphere. Political and religious tensions play out in microcosm on the island, which means that the personal coming-of-age tale reflects a much broader story. The war may seem a long way away from Matia’s life on Mallorca, but its shadow looms large. 

Published in Penguin Modern Classics: read an extract here.