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Books on Spain

A round-up and review of Books on Spain. Some old some new, fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes brief, sometimes in depth but never negative. If I don’t like it, I won’t review it!

Driving Over Lemons
06 October 2014 @ 08:33

For my first Books On Spain review there can really only be one contender and that’s Chris Stewart’s wonderful autobiography, Driving Over Lemons. Living in the same area as Chris it’s lovely to see through his eyes this region as it was when he arrived here twenty five years ago. Much has changed in that time but much hasn’t.

The book is beautifully written in the way only the English can manage, a lyrical and understated style that’s filled with gentle humour. Chris is an eternal and self confessed optimist and to him the glass is never half empty or half full, it’s always full. He tackles living in this harsh and demanding environment with a belief that no problem is insurmountable and any setback is just a minor deviation to his plans. The walls of his house tumble down, the roof leaks and the insects invade but Chris just goes to work and the small farm just seems to respond to his touch and thrive. His willingness to integrate with the local community is a lesson to all those who wish to settle in any foreign country. His acceptance of the customs and ways of the region builds strong and enduring friendships that are still evident even in his latest book, Last Days of the Bus Club.

For those who have just arrived from Mars, Chris Stewart was the original Drummer with the Prog Rock band Genesis. He left them just before they became famous and toured the world working on farms or wherever he could find a job until he eventually settled in Spain in 1988. Driving Over Lemons relates the early days of his new life in the Alpujarran region of Andalucía.  The book is written with such a warm charm that seems to make carving a living from this rough terrain somehow fun. So much so, that he has been credited, or accused depending on one’s viewpoint, of single handedly starting a mass expat migration to the area. Many of whom, lacking Stewart’s tenacity and optimism headed home just as rapidly. It is a credit to his writing skills that Chris can make a tumble down shack with no electricity or running water an aspirational dream but this is exactly what he does.

Christ Stewart  has since written three follow on books relating his later years at El Valero.

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eggcup said:
06 October 2014 @ 09:06

Hi David. I, too, enjoyed 'Driving over Lemons' and I believe it influenced my decision to go and live in Spain. I wouldn't describe it as an autobiography though - but very much a fantasy. I know the area very well and found many of the people - both Spanish and expat - were only friendly when they thought they could make some money out of you. I also think that his portrayal of the baddies as lovable rogues was disingenuous; I feel he hid how he really felt when the previous owner of El Valero wouldn't vacate for months after the sale had gone through, for example. I think this kind of attitude brushed over the difficulties new settlers face and in a way kind of led them into the lion's den.
That's my review!

Conchi said:
06 October 2014 @ 10:06

You have it spot on Eggcup. All those books re. Moving to Spain and living in an old finca are sheer tosh. They should carry a health warning that they are for entertainment only. Now everyone thinks they can write their story, Amazon etc. is full of these type of books.

DavidLud said:
06 October 2014 @ 10:12

Hi Eggcup
Interesting viewpoint! I live in the area and my experience of the local people is significantly different. We have known and still know many people around here, both locals and expats and we have found the vast majority very friendly and welcoming. We have really not encountered the two-faced friendliness of which you speak. I can only assume you were very unfortunate.

eggcup said:
06 October 2014 @ 13:53

Well, let's just say that during two years of living in that area we made a lot of so-called friends, but only one stayed the course (an expat). In terms of Spaniards, we were never invited into one house except when they wanted to sell said house to us! Shopkeepers were friendly WHEN we were in their shops and would often look through us in the street. Some expats we knew who arrived completely fluent in Spanish and keen to integrate made no Spanish friends at all. They were amazed when we moved and invited them to a house-warming in a different area a year later (when we had built our house), to find we had a whole stack of great Spanish friends and neighbours. The Alpujarras is a strange place in my experience. I don't think it was down to my bad luck. People often 'accuse' me of that - the subtext being that somehow I have this cloud of bad luck swimming over my head, with an additional implicit suggestion that I somehow bring it upon myself (I'm not saying you mean it that way; it's just that I've been told it a lot during the course of my blogging on this site).
NB. you will have missed my blogs if you're new to the site - they're kind of the antithesis to Chris Stewart's stuff. When I have the time and energy I will be publishing them on amazon - you'll see that a lot of stuff that happened to me has significant resonance with others on this site - I will put the many comments my blog attracted into an appendix. Only my 3rd book is on this site at the moment as I have removed the earlier ones with a view to publish.
All the best with your blogging and writing and fingers crossed your luck holds out over there! (I'm back in Wales and very glad to be here)

Mickyfinn said:
05 December 2014 @ 11:49

I agree with you eggcup. Peter Mayle did something similar about France and hoards of Brits descended on Provence as a result.

The found they couldn't afford to live there and fanned out to the Dordogne and other such places. Most discovered these writings are fantasy modelled and designed to guess what - sell books.

Still as we all know a dream is a dream just don't expect it to exist in the raw reality of life.

I find Spain attracts a particular sort of British wide boy immigrant. They believe they can get away with things Britain would never tolerate. Usually they come to lie low for a while, under the radar. Trouble comes when the need for money returns. They then reinvent themselves as experts in all things.

I don't blame people seeking to make a living writing such rubbish about these countries. Italy is the now the new chic. However readers should take a large pinch of salt as they dream away of a lifestyle that does not exist except in the imagination of the author.

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