This is not a review of Inma Chacon’s Tiempo de arena (runner-up, Premio Planeta 2011)

This was going to be a review of Tiempo de arena [Time of Sand], by Inma Chacón (above), which I picked up in Tenerife airport a couple of weeks ago and have been gripped by ever since. And then I finished the novel and did a bit of googling and discovered that it’s a sequel! A secret sequel! And so now I have to read the secret prequel…

Tiempo de arena, as I reported back in October, was the runner-up in the Premio Planeta 2011, Spain’s most prestigious prize for fiction. But what none of the publicity, or indeed the book itself, admits is that the story of Tiempo de arena – a family melodrama set against the turbulent geopolitics of the dying days of the Spanish Empire and first faltering steps of the modern 20th century – follows on from Chacón’s 2007 novel Las filipinianas.

Both novels follow the story of the Camp de la Cruz family as they travel from their ancestral palace in Toledo, via Mallorca and Alexandria to the Philippines – where Las filipinianas is largely set –  and then, in Tiempo de arena, back to Spain. From a geopolitical perspective, the story is fascinating and reveals all kinds of anxieties about the reorganization of Spain’s internal and external relations at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Spain of Tiempo de arena is newly shorn of its Empire and looking to the future, but unable to cast off the shadow of the Philippines – literally in the case of one character,whose footsteps are dogged for more than a decade by a Philippine admirer who remains always just out of sight. When their ownership of the Toledan palace comes under threat, the family must uncover a secret that cuts to the very core of their self-image. Crucially, the key to the mystery lies in Spain’s peripheries, and specifically in the Basque mountains of Durango and the Valencian coast at La Malvarrosa.

If I was thrilled to find Tiempo de arena, a rare example of a Spanish historical novel set in the long nineteenth century, you can imagine the happy dance when I found out about the prequel, which is now on order (thank you, Amazon one-click!). More soon…


  1. Oh, this sure sounds exciting! I can’t wait for your review of the secret series 😉

    1. Thanks! Apparently Filipinianas was dispatched yesterday so hopefully I will have it for the weekend!

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