Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia

Stewart, Chris

Published by Pantheon, 1999
ISBN 10: 0375410287 / ISBN 13: 9780375410284
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8vo. 248 pp., b/w photographs, map endpapers. Inscribed to original owner on the title page. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: A funny, generous, wonderfully written account of an family making a life and home in remote but enchanting southern Spain.

At seventeen, Chris Stewart, the first drummer for the rock group Genesis, left the band and launched a career that included stints as a sailor, a sheep shearer, and a travel writer. And he has no regrets.

If he'd become a rock star, he might never have moved with his wife, Ana, to El Valero, a mountain farm in Andalucía, Spain, studded with olive, almond, and lemon groves -- but with no access road, water supply, or electricity. He might never have forged the friendship of a lifetime with his resourceful neighbor Domingo. He might never have had the adventures that resulted in both hilarious disasters and blissful serendipity. He might never have experienced the satisfying complexity of a simple life lived in one of Europes's most beautiful regions, among peasants, farmers, ex-pats, New Age travelers, and a growing family, or come to understand a place and its people with such depth and affection. And certainly Stewart, the eternal optimist, would never have written this delectable book and made us his utterly captivated audience.

Review: 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

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in ...
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition.

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