Houzz Logo Print

Book of the Week

10 years ago

Driving over lemons : an optimist in Andalucia / Chris Stewart.

"A funny, generous, wonderfully written account of a family making a life and home in remote but enchanting southern Spain" - from the inside cover. Chris Stewart was the first drummer for the rock group Genesis and left the band for work as a sailor, a sheep shearer and a travel writer. He and his wife Ana moved to Spain and made a new life there. The many hilarious portions of this book are especially wonderful, which start at the beginning and continue at intervals right through the entire volume.

The title of the book comes from newly arrived Chris who stopped his car to avoid driving over a lemon. The real estate agent, who was accompanying him to help locate a property to purchase, ordered him to drive over it. "There were, it was true, a hell of a lot of lemons. They hurtled past, borne on a stream of water that bubbled nearby; in places the road was a mat of mashed fruit, and the earth beneath the trees was bright with fallen yellow orbs." The climate is mild and produce is abundant enough that excess figs and watermelon are fed to pigs.

The property that Chris and Ana purchase as a home is in a mountainous region and eventually (with much help) they build a new house in the sturdy, local style, along with a road and a bridge over the river to have easier access to their property. The lifestyle in the region is rustic and many features of modern life had not reached the area. The local residents offer help, advice, friendship, and much wine, and Chris assists with the pig slaughter and sheep shearing. He uses a shearing method that is new to the farmers, including an electric shearer, which prompts bystanders to offer dire predictions of the consequences to the sheep. The couple tries to raise their own poultry and sheep, experiencing numerous adventures when things don't go according to plan. One of the funniest descriptions in the book is when Chris is in the delivery room with Ana while she is giving birth to their daughter. He faints so many times that the staff evict him from the delivery room lest they have to tend to possible injuries. Eventually Chris and Ana expand their range of acquaintances as they come to know and befriend other members of the expatriate community.

This is a very charming book and although it was published in 1999, the simple way of life described in the book, sadly, likely doesn't exist anymore.

Comments (5)