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Friday, 30 August 2013

A Guiri* and more in SPAIN

A truly charming novel that transports the reader to the Almeria/Andalusia region of Spain.

To the urbanisation of Lomaverde, to be precise, where a mix of expats has bought property with beautiful views across the landscape. But the beauty stops there. This is a development where the building works have stopped, the developer has ceased trading, where roads fade into rocky tracks and where swimming pools, once the pivotal feature of the ex pat lifestyle, are leaking water. Cats prowl about, cracks in the infrastructure appear, and shadowy figures flit among some of the ruined housing.

Eamonn and Laura have bought into the Spanish Dream, but are having time apart. Dermot, Eamonn’s Father arrives for an unannounced two week stay with his son, his first trip ever ‘abroad’.

This is the story of their juggled co-existence and coming together, the sharing of their joint history and reflections on their journey through life, both as individuals and as a parent/child. It is a mesmerizing portrait of a Father/Son relationship, the irritations, the shorthand of communication, the ease of co-existing, the frustration of personality quirks. And their shared loss of Kathleen, wife and mother.

And all set in the countryside of Southern Spain, which beautifully comes to life in the capable hands of author Catherine O’Flynn: the creaking heat, the people in the sometimes bleak surroundings, the rocky countryside, plus some interesting observations and asides: who, for example, knew of Boabdil The Unlucky before reading this book? 

The author is eloquent in her use of language and description; take Dermot, who describes with vivid detail his surroundings:  ‘The air was warm and filled with the sound of night creatures vibrating invisibly in the bushes around him. He turned his gaze upwards. He’d become accustomed to city night skies, a meagre scattering of greyish pinpricks in the strip of hazy orange above the streetlights. Here he felt himself pushed back into his chair by the spectacle of the limitless stars and constellations covering every part of the sky above him’.  Or accompany Dermot and Eamonn to a Spanish Restaurant, where the menu has valiantly been translated into English – feast upon Landfill of Pork or enjoy Vaporized Fish

This book really is full of gentle explorations, beautifully rendered relationships, set in a stunningly captured landscape. 

One tiny issue: would a young man, Eamonn, of British/Irish descent from Birmingham, really refer to his Catholic Mum with the americanised version 'Mom' rather than 'Mum' or 'Mam'?????

Interestingly, the flyleaf of our copy describes the bickering Brits who populate Lomaverde, and focuses on the ‘shocking secret’ that is revealed - the denouement might be a bit surprising, but it isn't to our mind 'shocking'. For us this novel is much more about the international flair that the expats bring (Inga from Sweden, for example) and how all the individuals are struggling with personal issues in a foreign, and occasionally, hostile environment. 

The term guiri is street slang used to describe the what is considered to be the stereotypical tourist or foreigner from Northern Europe and the Anglo-Saxon sphere.

We then thought it would be a good idea to bring together a couple more books, set around Spain, so readers can take a virtual tour of the country through writing. We shy away from the more obvious choices this time, like Ildefonso Falcone's  Cathedral of the Sea or Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, or books by Laurie Lee, Jan Morris and Ernest Hemingway, because there are so many novels and books out there that also truly evoke the country, are well written, and many of which deserve a bigger readership. There is no way we can list all our favourites, this is a purely random selection of our top picks set around Spain for you to enjoy. Click on the covers to find out more.

Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar, set in Galicia

Duende by Jason Webster set in part in Madrid and Alicante explores the art of Flamenco

Southern Seas by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán 
set in Barcelona

Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irvine
set in Granada

The Blind Man of Seville by Robert Wilson
set in Seville

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown
set in Valencia

The Secret of Lemon Leaves by Clara Sanchez
Set in Javea

The Maze of Cadiz by Aly Monroe
set in Cadiz

On our site we have so many locations in Spain - Arcos de la Frontera, The Pyrenees, Malaga, Vigo, Pamplona and many more, so drop by and choose your next read by genre and location.

And if you have any top reads that evoke Spain, let us know in the Comments Box below, we would love to hear from you! 

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