Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain Paperback – May 8, 2001
|New from||Used from|
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
There are no descriptions of fine wines, imcomparable meals, or other such rich treats. Instead this is a tale of an English couple that eschews the bourgeois lifestyle and seeks a simpler lifestyle in rural Spain. The leitmotif for the book could be summed up as carpe diem. The result is a touching description of evolving understanding of a different culture, appreciation and respect for the challenges of an agrarian lifestyle, and the importance of human relationships.
Throughout one is struck by what a kind hearted, genuinely good, and often frustratingly credulous person Chris Stewart is. He has an endearing capacity for laughing at himself and chalking up losses and set backs as part of the cost of change. Much of the book's humor is derived from the characteristically deadpan British understatement and irony, and the assortment of interesting and eccentric characters to whom the Stewarts are drawn and also attract.
Stewart's growing relationship with his laconic, multitalented neighbor Domingo is particularly heart warming. One is struck by the neighor's acumen, unceasing generosity, and ongoing willingness to aid the often fumbling Stewart. There is a particularly moving chapter about "understanding the water" where Stewart reveals his immense gratitude and respect to Domingo by expressing the hope to earn his respect someday.
This is a lovely, uplifting, fun book depicting the growth of a family and the development of a new, and perhaps more essential, lifestyle. I felt better for having read it.
Another strength of the book is that he does not shy away from describing the bad elements of life, particularly the locals. Even the food gets rough treatment. Stewart doesn't hang out in local cafes or seek out restaurants (ever, it seems); all his food descriptions are from the farms, and they're not the simple, hearty, soul-warming dishes one expects. Food is rough and strong and not always easy to take. He doesn't even pretend that the wine is respectable; it's not. The first dish ever described (and one of the few) is the oily potatoes that the former owner of the farm cooks, almost daily. By itself, it's a good example of the whole experience--both attractive and repelent, and not to everyone's taste.
The people of the region get the same treatment. Too many writers pretend that their rustric countryside doesn't have the same percentage of bastards that any city would have, or that life isn't hard on them. Stewart doesn't, and you get to meet some of them.
Still, his main occupation at the farm and the house is the farm and the house. It takes everything just to keep that place going. The details are tremendous. One certainly gets a sense of place about his plot of land, but not nearly as much about the rest of the area. The same holds for Stewart himself, and his wife. We don't know much about them, which usually is not a big deal with these expat tales, but since this one is so insular, the book may have trouble holding your attention. In the standard expat tale, the village and land around them is full of characters who carry the action, but here it's 80% the author, with perhaps 5% his wife. Stewart, to his credit, is certainly not afraid of showing himself as a bit clueless on many things, but you may not find it endearing.
As with many expat books (I'll stop using that phrase now), the ending is not a neat wrap-up, and utlimately the author is struggling for what the book was trying to say. Progress has certaintly been made on the farm. It's a home now, with creature comforts. Everyone is happy, and they've even had a child and are raising her there. But Stewart never steps back and pontificates; he doesn't do the reflecting on life that's almost demanded of such a memior. We're left with a very narrow and effective sense of place, but little sense of self.