Sunday, 25 March 2012

Driving Over Lemons - An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart

Oh dear, has it really been that long since I posted a review?  I am a bad, bad, BAD book blogger.  I've been too busy reading books and not writing about them. I intend to remedy this!

So here we go!

Driving Over Lemons - An Optimist in Andalucia by Chris Stewart

Let's start at the very beginning, what is the book about?'s a non-fiction narrative about growing and ocassionally driving over lemons I suppose?  And setting up home in Andalucia in Las Alpujarras which is south of Granada.  This 'home' is actually a ramshackle farm without running water or electricity which Chris Stewart (the author) and his wife decide to fix up and turn into a working farm complete with sheep, lemon and olive groves, a couple of dogs, chickens and a lot of bugs by the sounds of it.

To be absolutely honest, it could actually be summarised as the written version of 'The Good Life' set somewhere much hotter and without the posh neighbours.  It's the sort of book that makes you want to sell all your earthly possessions, up-sticks and just go with the flow somewhere warm.  Or maybe that's just me.

There's the trials and tribulations of buying the property, living with the a previous owner who is too attached to his old home to move on, adventures in poultry keeping, sheep farming, house building, water walking (as in directing water to nourish plants, not as in Jesus & miracles), pig despatching, or is that dispatching.  I'm not sure if I've just typed about posting pigs via Royal Mail or killing them, it was the latter by the way. My english teacher would be tutting right about now.

I definitely enjoyed the book, it wasn't a 'I can't put it down' read, it was more of a relaxing meander through the pages. There are no huge heartbreaks, unless you count the death of their kitty which even then died of a surfeit of slightly dodgy smoked salmon - not a bad way to go for a cat with a taste for fish - just a journey through the days. I never felt my heart racing, wondering what would happen, but I did feel very engaged and entertained.  Imagine sitting on a National Express coach next to a really interesting person for 5 hours or so, telling you all about their life - that's the feeling I got from Driving Over Lemons.

This book is well written and has a light hearted, self deprecating sense of humour that appealed to me.  It did lack a little depth somehow, but that was almost the beauty of it.  You almost find yourself falling in love with the views that Chris describes, even though you've never seen them.  The people become familiar in the same way that they became familiar to Chris and his wife (and eventually his daughter who was born out there); it is a lilting narrative that drifts from one aspect of farm life to another.  There's no deep issues to make you think, no painful tugs on the heart strings, no huge belly laughs - but there is a quiet tale that draws you on till the very last page.  I was sad when the book ended, I wanted to know how life carried on.  Personally I think a book is a good book if you feel a pang of sadness when you realise there's no more to read.

Driving Over Lemons is a calm, optimistic, upbeat book about making the best of things and the best of people.  Definitely one to read and savour.  Apparently there is a sequel to the book, not that I'm hinting or anything......(Kay stares with lost puppy eyes at WHSmith ;O) sent me a copy to read for review purposes, and for that I am very thankful!  Thank you! If you'd like your own copy they have them on sale HERE for £4.91

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