The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
The courage and commitment of those who volunteered to support the republican cause in the Spanish civil war from 1936 to 1939 are what impelled Lydia Syson to write this novel.
What a fine job she's done.
Based on first-hand testimonies and extensive historical research, A World Between Us tells the story of Nat, a young Jewish East End communist, and suburban middle-class nurse Felix, who meet by chance at the battle of Cable Street in 1936.
It's love at first sight but Nat's about to join the international brigade and go to Spain to take part in the anti-fascist struggle.
What follows is a page-turner as Felix decides to obey the dictates of the heart and a growing understanding of what's at stake in the anti-fascist struggle.
On an impulse she volunteers as a nurse for the brigades in the hope of eventually being reunited with Nat. What follows is a skilfully crafted account as the two are caught up in major battles of the war at places like Jarama, Madrid and Teruel - the aftermath of the aerial bombing of Guernica is particularly effective - and through Felix's eyes the work of British medical volunteers and their experiences are made real.
As love story, history and gripping drama - there's a chilling plot twist after Felix realises that one of her Spanish colleagues is in fact a Franco sympathiser - it's a book that works on all levels, not least because Syson avoids the trap of romanticising.
She shows how sometimes the dislocation between idealism and the realities of conflict reflect the uncomfortable life-or-death choices made in the heat of struggle.
This book should certainly appeal to those interested in an anti-fascist struggle whose events and consequences still impact in Spain and beyond to this day. Highly recommended.