I read this book as part of the 2017 European Reading Challenge.
Palm Trees in the Snow is set in two time periods, the 1950s -1960s and 2003. The men of the Rabaltue family (father Anton, brothers Kilian and Jacobo) leave their home in the snowy mountains of Spain in the 1950s and travel to Fernando Po, an island in equatorial Africa, to work on the cocoa plantations. The stories they bring home are vibrant and entertaining, but in 2003 Clarence, the daughter of Jacobo, discovers a portion of a letter that leads her on a quest to discover the true story of Kilian and Jacobo’s stay in Fernando Po. Her journey and the discoveries she makes will change the family forever.
I really liked this book. I learned about life in the Pyrennes mountains of Spain and the changes that occurred in that area with the advent of ski resorts in the 1980s and 90s. I also learned about Fernando Po, an island today called Bioko that is part of Equatorial Guinea. Palm Trees in the Snow goes into great detail about the cocoa production on the plantations of Fernando Po in the 1950s, when it was a colony of Spain, and also informs about the growing movement for independence, the treatment of the Bubi, the indigenous population, and life of the colonist.
This novel was originally written in Spanish and is the first novel by Luz Gabas. For the most part, I liked the way it was written, although occasionally I became confused as the voice of the story would change, sometimes within the same paragraph. I’m not sure if that was the fault of the author or the translation. Overall, though, this was an interesting and engrossing story of love, loss, tragedy, and at the core, the strength of family bonds.