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BEGINNINGS: Where A Life Begins: Tales of Survival and Revenge

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It is early 1939 and the end of the Spanish Civil War as Maria, heavily pregnant and with a tiny son to care for, frantically flees Franco's fascist forces across the border dividing the colourful Basque countries of Spain and France. Tragedy and an ancient cycle of murder and revenge stalk her every step and the birth of her second child is traumatic. A moment of hope for It is early 1939 and the end of the Spanish Civil War as Maria, heavily pregnant and with a tiny son to care for, frantically flees Franco's fascist forces across the border dividing the colourful Basque countries of Spain and France. Tragedy and an ancient cycle of murder and revenge stalk her every step and the birth of her second child is traumatic. A moment of hope for freedom and a future in France is all but dashed by the Nazi occupation and the tumultuous and divisive aftermath of WW2. Inevitably, Maria and her young family are drawn into the inescapable truths of their genetic background; and as her young daughter matures into the kind of woman that Maria could never be, they both begin to understand how the events of the distant past still determine their destinies.


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It is early 1939 and the end of the Spanish Civil War as Maria, heavily pregnant and with a tiny son to care for, frantically flees Franco's fascist forces across the border dividing the colourful Basque countries of Spain and France. Tragedy and an ancient cycle of murder and revenge stalk her every step and the birth of her second child is traumatic. A moment of hope for It is early 1939 and the end of the Spanish Civil War as Maria, heavily pregnant and with a tiny son to care for, frantically flees Franco's fascist forces across the border dividing the colourful Basque countries of Spain and France. Tragedy and an ancient cycle of murder and revenge stalk her every step and the birth of her second child is traumatic. A moment of hope for freedom and a future in France is all but dashed by the Nazi occupation and the tumultuous and divisive aftermath of WW2. Inevitably, Maria and her young family are drawn into the inescapable truths of their genetic background; and as her young daughter matures into the kind of woman that Maria could never be, they both begin to understand how the events of the distant past still determine their destinies.

38 review for BEGINNINGS: Where A Life Begins: Tales of Survival and Revenge

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    Okay, this will be quick Things i liked about the book: → Foreign author treating themes like Spanish civil war or Spanish culture. → The past stories were quite interesting and I would’ve enjoyed them much more if they were a compilation of independent stories. Things i didn't like: → Too many details that has nothing to do with the story (like translating every street name from Spanish to Basque). Most of the information given in the story is not relevant for it although it might be interesting Okay, this will be quick Things i liked about the book: → Foreign author treating themes like Spanish civil war or Spanish culture. → The past stories were quite interesting and I would’ve enjoyed them much more if they were a compilation of independent stories. Things i didn't like: → Too many details that has nothing to do with the story (like translating every street name from Spanish to Basque). Most of the information given in the story is not relevant for it although it might be interesting for a person reading the book but that was not my case. → Characters look just like a tool for the author to talk about history. → The main story was unbelievable for me and I couldn’t connect with none of the characters nor their feelings and thoughts. → It had very few chapters talking about WWII which was my main attraction to this book

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Johnston

    'Beginnings: Where A Life Begins' is an ambitious, multi-layered novel about the workings of genetic memory through many generations of women. The novel deserves a wide readership not only because of its original and audacious premise, but because each historical episode is vividly imagined, and the female characters, linked in ways they recognize but do not fully understand, are remarkable inventions in themselves. The novel is predicated on the controversial idea that Mitochondrial DNA, transm 'Beginnings: Where A Life Begins' is an ambitious, multi-layered novel about the workings of genetic memory through many generations of women. The novel deserves a wide readership not only because of its original and audacious premise, but because each historical episode is vividly imagined, and the female characters, linked in ways they recognize but do not fully understand, are remarkable inventions in themselves. The novel is predicated on the controversial idea that Mitochondrial DNA, transmitted from mothers to daughters, is understood, by certain outstanding women of their times, as an accumulated heritage. These women know the line they come from even if they cannot explain this knowledge; it gives them courage and it makes them proud. Many of the women Heilbronn portrays as young, athletic warriors, but the main protagonist, Maria, a Basque refugee from Franco’s Spain, is of a different type. She suffers the tumultuous war years, having barely escaped across the border into France, and wishes only to remain unobtrusive and unnoticed by those who have the power to do her and her daughter, born shortly after her arrival, harm. The story moves in a wide arc, returning to Maria and Anna at various points. It is while Maria is giving birth to Anna – in a kind of trance – that the first return to deep genetic memory is accomplished, to the Cantabrian Mountains in about 10,000 BC. Other sections include ‘Coming of the Phoenicians’, Siege of Saguntum, (in the third century BC) and the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century. Each is conveyed with an eye for detail, while the forward momentum of the story is maintained. Mt favourite section tells of the coming of the Phoenicians to the northern coast of Spain. The many differences between the indigenous people and the Phoenician traders, the troubles in which they find themselves, and in particular the character of Hannh, the young female warrior, made me want this section to continue. At the end of the chapter describing Maria’s escape, readers are introduced to ‘an original, ornate dagger’ which, like the characters’ elusive yet crucial memories, has been handed on through thousands of years and will continue to play its own part in the story. In an afterword, Heilbronn gives an account of the historical and scientific background to his novel, with particular reference to the meaning of genetic links in people like the Basques, ‘whose ethnic identity and genealogy have been insulated and isolated through millennia.’ Beginnings is complex and full of intriguing concepts and characters, yet at the same time emotionally vivid and fast-paced. Heilbronn has the ability to carry his readers along no matter if the scene is set in Palaeolithic times or the 1950s, with the rise of the Basque separatist movement. I highly recommend this book and look forward to its sequel.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Dizon

    Beginnings by Gary Heilbronn is a fast-paced work of historical fiction based on the exploits of Maria, a young woman living along the Spanish-French border near the Pyrenees Mountains by the Rio Urumea. The metaphysical concept of reincarnation resonates throughout the novel as Maria's daughter Anna finds herself catapulted to different periods of time as a response to traumatic events along the course of her lifetime. It is an intriguing and fateful road on which we follow Maria and Anna on th Beginnings by Gary Heilbronn is a fast-paced work of historical fiction based on the exploits of Maria, a young woman living along the Spanish-French border near the Pyrenees Mountains by the Rio Urumea. The metaphysical concept of reincarnation resonates throughout the novel as Maria's daughter Anna finds herself catapulted to different periods of time as a response to traumatic events along the course of her lifetime. It is an intriguing and fateful road on which we follow Maria and Anna on their life journey in this exotic adventure. The theme of history resonates throughout Heilbronn’s storyline, along with the age-old parable warning that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Maria escapes the turbulence of the Spanish Civil War only to find herself in greater jeopardy as the Nazis conquer France upon the outbreak of World War II. She continues to cross borders in jumping from the frying pan to the fire, finding the post-war struggle for Basque independence as tumultuous as the intellectual and social struggle of the French in the post-Vichy era. The author provides numerous déjà vu-like flashbacks as Maria's daughter Anna is hurled back to the times of Hannibal’s military campaigns, the Phoenician trading expeditions, and even the cave dwellers of 10,000 BC. It not only gives us a comprehensive view of the history of the region but also considerable food for thought as to how the phenomenon of those recalling a past life may be influenced by their DNA molecules, which is an unbroken chain linking us back to Adam and Eve. As an ethnic Spaniard on my father’s side, I have been fascinated by his background tracing back to Barcelona. Although it is considered Catelonian country, there are many similarities with the history of its Basque neighbors going back to ancient times. It is also interesting to note that there has been a strong empathy between the Basque and the Irish struggle over the centuries, which resonates with my mother’s ethnic roots. Plus the fact that the turmoil affecting France has been so influential in European history, another of my major areas of study, this was a triple-tiered reading experience that I highly recommend. For history buffs, action/adventure fans and those interested in genetic theories and metaphysical influences, Beginnings by Gary Heilbronn is one you won’t want to miss.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joan

    I received this book as a giveaway from Goodreads.While I primarily enjoyed the book, for me, there was too much history and not enough of the stories of the people involved. The history of the Basque people was interesting but as I read mainly for pleasure dates don't interest me as much as people, relationships and events of the time. It was a very clever concept - the past playing a role in the future. Well written and easy to read but it left me sad and depressed as it shows so clearly that I received this book as a giveaway from Goodreads.While I primarily enjoyed the book, for me, there was too much history and not enough of the stories of the people involved. The history of the Basque people was interesting but as I read mainly for pleasure dates don't interest me as much as people, relationships and events of the time. It was a very clever concept - the past playing a role in the future. Well written and easy to read but it left me sad and depressed as it shows so clearly that we really haven't evolved much - greed, corruption, revenge, war, jealousy are just as rife today as centuries ago and the innocent are the ones that suffer most.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Interesting concept about DNA woven into a very detailed historical novel. Aurthor is clearly knowledgable is the history of the region of which he has written. I found the characters very interesting but a bit too much detail in dates and names of towns for me to process as an easy read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Natalie S

    An interesting read

  7. 5 out of 5

    mak keffer

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nyssa Sutherland

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann Massey

  10. 5 out of 5

    Avenger

  11. 4 out of 5

    Angela Sekovska

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gary Heilbronn

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  14. 5 out of 5

    Iin Ndah

  15. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gary Heilbronn

  17. 4 out of 5

    Edmond Humm

  18. 5 out of 5

    Judy Beasley

  19. 4 out of 5

    Linda Geremia

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris Ragosta

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julie Gavin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann Massey

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diana King

  25. 4 out of 5

    Delia Strange

  26. 5 out of 5

    Avenger

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Nguyen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Angel Vivero

  29. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

  31. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  32. 5 out of 5

    Wonderliv

  33. 4 out of 5

    Irum Zahra

  34. 5 out of 5

    June

  35. 4 out of 5

    Stella Clarkson

  36. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Cole Marie Mckinnon

  37. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Kennedy

  38. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

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