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A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco Paperback – November 11, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Beware of falling in love while on vacation. You might end up buying a riad. Less of a tourist center than Marrakesh or Tangier, Fez is the largest car-free urban area and the best-preserved medieval walled city in the world. While on vacation, Australian photojournalist Clarke and her husband were bewitched by the exotic city, deciding to return and begin a search for a riad (a large home with an inner courtyard) to renovate. This enjoyable narrative chronicles the couple's navigation through a puzzling new world. Readers get to tag along while Clarke deals with Kafkaesque bureaucracy, maneuvers delicately through relationships with neighbors, contractors and construction workers, and goes back to school to improve her French. She weaves this personal narrative together with snippets of the fascinating history and culture of her adopted country. This is an all too brief but enjoyable excursion into one woman's experience with a place she clearly loves. Readers will surely fall under its spell as well.
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About the Author
Born in New Zealand, Suzanna Clarke grew up in several parts of Australia. In her twenties she lived in a Welsh commune, an Amsterdam squat and a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. She has worked as a photojournalist for more than two decades and is the arts director of The Daily Mail in Brisbane. Her husband, Sandy, is a radio broadcaster who now spends most of his time in Fez. Their blog is riadzany.blogspot.com.
Top customer reviews
As someone else mentioned, the Kindle version of this book is an absolute mess. It badly needs to be edited. Randomly interspersed throughout sentences are fragments that include the book title and page numbers. If this had happened once or twice it could be overlooked, but there are many instances where a sentence is interrupted by the title and page number. There are many missing words, and other typographical and editorial errors, as well.
I appreciate the way Suzanna Clarke describes her experiences without becoming overly self-absorbed. Au contraire, her self-deprecation is quite endearing and amusing. I particularly liked reading about the relationships she formed with all kinds of people; from expats, to her neighbors, bureaucrats and workers. She certainly got it right from the beginning – you can't buy and restore a home in a place like like Fez without an inshallah attitude, which she and her husband seemed to completely embrace.
Our next trip is to Morocco, and I'm very glad I read this book. It is well written and fast paced. The enjoyment of the reading experience is enhanced by the rich and interesting context one receives into Fez and Morocco through her commentary about culture, architecture, history, and religion. And I enjoyed following up reading the book with the visuals on Suzanna's blog.
Although I loved reading about Suzanna's experience, I could not in my wildest dreams ever imagine buying a house in Fez and living the drama she described. But kudos to her and her husband for their perseverance. I hope that their cultural immersion continues to be the amazingly rich and zany life experience they had hoped for, and then some!
There are many insights into traditional moroccan culture and society.