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Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart
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Driving Over Lemons

by Chris Stewart

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
With warmth and humor, Chris Stewart describes his move with his wife Ana to a remote spot in Andalucía, a mountainous area of Spain, where he buys a house and starts his own farm. I love his determination and great spirit of adventure as he manages to leave his English roots behind and become a full-fledged member of this Spanish community.

In particular, I loved reading about the people of the area and how they reacted to this expat from England. The description of the scenery was magnificent, although I really would have preferred to see larger, color pictures within this book. The animal stories were also terrific...from the pets dogs that didn't always behave to the sheep that ran away as a flock. More important than all of these, though, were the friendships that developed in the years that Chris lived in El Valero which is what the author called his farm. Domingo was a friend in the truest sense of the word and probably had much to do with Chris and Ana's successful adaptation to their new country. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Feb 25, 2014 |
Chris Stewart comes across from this candid book as precisely what the subtitle states: an optimist! I enjoyed reading this thoroughly, but it is perhaps a bit too light-hearted - things that I feel ought to elicit more serious comment, and topics that could have been rewarded with more depth away from the primarily aurobiographical get a bit left by the wayside. By this I mean that, whilst I do not for one second doubt the honesty and veracity (which shine through in the wiritng), but the slightly narrow scope on the mostly surface concerns of the people living there, both native and expat, is sometimes frustrating, as I would have liked more on how consumerism and globalisation is affecting the way of life of the locals, for example. In this respect the beginning of the book is far stronger, and he is perhaps more defensive, for want of a better word, about the slightly idealised Spaniards whom he has dealings with, particularly as the book/time goes on.

All that said, there isn't NO consideration of such issues, it just rather gets lost in the slightly bitty nature of how Stewart has chosen to put it together, and some of this is perhaps due to his innate optimism and adventurous streak. Some vignettes I found gripping, but I confess the accounts of dealings with other expats made me glad I wasn't one, and I rather rushed through them. I do honestly think I would like him if I met him, and that strain of utter likeability makes the book zip along, and keep you interested.

So, I suppose, I liked the book, but can't help wondering if the author is himself being a bit disingenuous at times: I simply can't believe, especially given the opening description of the journey to Spain, and the way in which he describes local habitations, that he hasn't read Gerald Brenan's utterly superb account of living, life and customs in this part of Spain, written some decades earlier (South from Grenada), and this leaves me wondering if a bit more of that kind of insight/depth would have transformed this book into a truly un-put-down-able read. ( )
  mtroper | Oct 19, 2013 |
When Chris Stewart flies to Spain and on impulse buys a farm in the Andalucian mountains, he has no idea what he’s taking on. The farm has no electricity, no running water, no easy access, and to cap it all, the former who sold it to him does not seem prepared to move out any time soon. However, Chris and his wife Ana set about making the farm their home and their livelihood. This book tells the true story of Chris and Ana’s move to a different country and lifestyle and how they created their home out of the remote farm.

This book is charming throughout. Chris is a thoroughly likeable narrator, and I really liked his wife Ana too. The way of life in the Andalucian mountains is amusingly and affectionately described, and there are a cast of wonderful characters, in the friends and neighbours who become part of Chris and Ana’s lives.

Stewart is very self-effacing and happy to admit to mistakes made in the early part of the rebuilding process, and as hard as some of the tasks they set themselves undoubtedly were, he somehow managed to make the whole process seem extremely inviting.

I wasn’t sure that this would be my kind of book, but I actually found it to be a gentle and sweet story, that was hard to put down. ( )
  Ruth72 | Apr 28, 2013 |
I was very happy to come across this delightful little book by Chris Stewart who threw it all in to become a sheep-shearer and, eventually, the owner of a remote farm in the Alpujarras region of Andalucia. While this technically belongs in the same genre as similar works by Peter Mayle, Frances Mayes and Tony Cohan, it strikes a very different pitch as it is remarkably humble, grounded and measured in its perception of local life in the Alpujarrai; it avoids the patronizing pastiche that often relegates locals to overblown stereotypes in similar biographical travelogues. Stewart's style is whimsical, with distant echoes of Bill Bryson, and the narrative that he weaves is more about interactions with intriguing local characters than about deep musings on Spanish life. Reading "Driving Over Lemons" tempts me to explore his later two books on his life in Andalucia --- definite future additions to the pile of books on the night-stand. ( )
1 vote Hanneri | Mar 21, 2013 |
It's unavoidable making the comparison between this book and Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Both are memoirs by ex-Pat Brits of their relocation to bucolic parts of Southern Europe, both to be found in my neighborhood book store almost side-by-side under Travel Essays. A blurb from the Daily Telegraph even says Stewart is being talked up as "the new Peter Mayle." Fortunately Stewart compared well--in fact I liked his book quite a bit more than Mayle's.

A lot of that is that I just plain liked Stewart a lot more than Mayle. Where Mayle comes across as privileged, condescending and effete, Stewart comes across as self-effacing, down-to-earth, and as another blurb put it, speaks of his neighbors with "no hint of patronage." Mayle's wife had no real presence in his book, whilel Stewart's Ana definitely makes her personality felt. While Mayle's biggest worry was getting an over-sized stone table into his home, Stewart and his wife plowed their life-savings and work hard to make their sheep farm a going concern.

It was a fast, pleasant and entertaining read. I don't rate this as high as Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country--another author Stewart is compared to--because this book didn't make me laugh out loud, and it arguably isn't as informative about the history and nature surrounding them. But I certainly found this worth the read: a charmer. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 30, 2012 |
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'Well, this is no good, I don't want to live here!' I said as we drove along yet another tarmac road behind a row of white-washed houses.
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I laid bare for him the fripperies of our existence. It seemed somehow wanting when compared with the elemental earthiness of his.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0953522709, Paperback)

When English sheep shearer Chris Stewart (once a drummer for Genesis) bought an isolated farmhouse in the mountains outside of Granada, Spain, he was fully aware that it didn't have electricity, running water, or access to roads. But he had little idea of the headaches and hilarity that would follow (including scorpions, runaway sheep, and the former owner who won't budge). He also had no idea that his memoir about southern Spain would set a standard for literary travel writing.

This rip-roaringly funny book about seeking a place in an earthy community of peasants and shepherds gives a realistic sense of the hassles and rewards of foreign relocation. Part of its allure stems from the absence of rose-colored glasses, mainly Stewart's refusal to merely coo about the piece of heaven he's found or to portray all residents as angels. Stewart's hilarious and beautifully written passages are deep in their honest perceptions of the place and the sometimes xenophobic natives, whose reception of the newcomers ranges from warm to gruff.

After reading about struggles with dialects, animal husbandry, droughts, flooding, and such local rituals as pig slaughters and the rebuilding of bridges, you may not wish to live Chris Stewart's life. But you can't help but admire him and his wife, Ana, for digging out a niche in these far-flung mountains, for successfully befriending the denizens, and for so eloquently and comically telling the truth. The rich, vibrant, and unromanticized candor of Driving over Lemons makes it a laudable standout in a genre too often typified by laughable naiveté. --Melissa Rossi

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:44 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

At age 17, Chris Stewart retired as the drummer of Genesis, his schoolboy band, and launched a new career as a sheep shearer and travel writer. This book describes his idyllic life on a remote mountain farm in Andaluca.

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