The Hand of Fatima

Written by Ildefonso Falcones Nick Caistor (trans.)
Review by Ann Oughton

In 1564, after years of Christian oppression, the Moors of Granada exact a terrible revenge against their masters: after the ensuing bloodbath, the white houses of the Christians are daubed with their blood.

Hernando is a Moor torn between two cultures, his blue eyes a constant reminder of the disgrace of his birth after his mother was raped by a Christian priest. Constantly referred to as the ‘Nazarine’ by his stepfather, he is forced to sleep in the stables with the mules.

When Hernando meets a black-eyed beauty, Fatima, she becomes the love of his life. Driven by hatred and jealousy, his stepfather condemns Hernando to slavery and steals Fatima for himself. When Hernando hears that Fatima is dead he is stricken by grief and immerses himself in study, believing that he can be instrumental in bringing the two faiths, Christianity and Muslim together; after all, they worship the same God, and the Virgin Mary is sacred to both. Hernando’s struggle for enlightenment determines his every action. Shunned by the Moors as a Christian sympathiser and seen as a heretic by the Christians, beset by trials and betrayal, his determination never wavers.

In an engrossing story of epic proportions, scrupulous historical detail and memorable characters that remain with the reader long after the book is closed, Ildefonso Falcones has produced a true work of art.