A Valley of Betrayal: Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War
This novel starts promisingly as a young romantic woman, Sophie Grace, travels to meet her fiancé, who is in Spain. Tricia Goyer writes with feeling about the protagonist, and about her predicament—finding herself in a foreign country, and doubting the man she has come to marry. Goyer is particularly skillful when, later on, she relates the religious struggle of her characters. The problem is the setting, Spain during its civil war. In a note to readers, Goyer admits that before writing this book “she had never heard of the war.” That’s a good reason to leave the subject alone.
A Valley of Betrayal unravels the moment Sophie sets foot in Spain. The errors show up on almost every page. In Goyer’s Spain, there is no Catalonian (language spoken in Barcelona and all of Catalonia); Basques have thoroughly Castilian names (Manuel Garcia instead of, for example, Josu Etxeberria); Madrid is in La Mancha (it has always been in Castile); the currency is pesos instead of pesetas. Goyer tells us that the muleta is the sword used by bullfighters (muleta is a red flannel cloth), that Sophie exchanges presents at Christmas (try January 6, on Epiphany). There is a long list of misspellings and wrong usages of Spanish words. Incredibly, Goyer insists on attributing fervent religious feelings to the Republican side, when in fact the vast majority of those who fought for the Spanish Republic (half of my family included) were Communist or Socialists, and, as such, mostly atheists. Given the importance of setting in this novel, it is impossible to regard A Valley of Betrayal as anything other than a failed effort.