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A Castle in Spain [Paperback]

Matthew Parris
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 May 2006
Walking in the Pyrenees, twenty years ago, Matthew Parris and his sister came upon a magnificent medieval house. It had crests and a date 1559 chiselled into the stone: its walls and foundations were intact but the ancient oak ridge timber supporting the roof had split and was ready to collapse into the rotten floors beneath. Renovation would be an epic undertaking a massive investment of time, money and emotion. And, the locals warned, nobody ever left L'Avenc with any money. A few years ago, Matthew (with his family's help) went back and bought the place. Astonishing and arguably idiot, his decision resulted in a phenomenal amount of hard work, and this hugely enjoyable book. Inspirational, instructional and utterly irresistible, this is the story of one man's dream to turn a forgotten ruin into his very own Castle in Spain.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (4 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141019433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141019437
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 398,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Matthew Parris was born in Africa in 1949 and grew up in Cyprus, Rhodesia, Jamaica and Britain. He worked for the Foreign Office and Margaret Thatcher before becoming an MP in 1979. For seven years a Conservative MP, he quit to present LWT's Weekend World, after which he became the regular parliamentary sketchwriter for The Times for 13 years. His books include his autobiography Chance Witness, Read My Lips, Scorn with Added Vitriol, and Inca-Kola, about his travels in Peru. He is a regular travel writer, reviewer, broadcaster and columnist and divides his time between London, Derbyshire and Spain.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars facinating account of a property in Catalunya 22 Nov 2005
I have visited this little visited part of northern spain and loved its unusual "grand canyon" like geography. The book completely captured the nature of the coutry, its history and people. The massive task of restoring L'Venc has just the right detail to draw you on so that you felt part of the team and longed for its success. Although Matthew says it is is not a travel book. I am off to see the place first chance I get.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read, and more 22 Jun 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an enchanting story, about a spectacular house, in a magical location - in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. Having enjoyed reading Parris's periodic articles about the restoration of this property in 'The Times' between 1999 and 2006, I nevertheless approached this book with a degree of caution - mindful of the old saw that 'a journalist never lets the truth get in the way of a good story'. My caution was misplaced. Unlike Peter Mayle, et al, Parris has both feet planted firmly in the real world. Having fallen in love with this mysterious and majestic old house through the pages of his book, I visited it for a short holiday in June 2007. I discovered that the book is indeed non-fiction, and 100% honest and true to life. It was the holiday of a lifetime, which I unreservedly recommend to all except members of the 'disco brigade'. A stunning location, blissful views, unspoilt medieval villages, and walking trails without equal. Although it feels a world away from the UK tourist trail, 'L'Avenc' is only a 90 minute drive from Barcelona and the Costa Brava. Read the book and visit one of the delightful and very high standard holiday cottages which adjoin the old house. You will not be disappointed!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ALMOST A CASTLE IN THE AIR 17 Aug 2006
A lot more than an account of how an spectacularly-situated, isolated mansion in Catalonia was rescued from dereliction. Parris uses that enormous project as the centrepiece for a heart-felt tribute to an unfamiliar Spanish locale. His style is highly visual and his family's local knowledge extraordinary. Thus the book avoids, by a distance, the trappings of the eccentric-Brit.-bloody-foreigner narrative.

The financing of this enormous restoration project is rather mysterious, and a ground plan of the mansion would help. But there's an overwelming sense of rediscovered dignity in a special place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It changed my mind 18 Oct 2006
By MarkE
Unlike other reviewers, I was not looking for a guide to restoring houses (in Spain or anywhere), but was interested in Matthew Paris' view on an area he knows well and where he has family connections. My main reason for buying was having enjoyed Parris' other writings but this book has sparked my curiosity about an area I knew nothing about, and have avoided as being too close to the most "touristy" parts of Spain. I have had my error pointed out, and now intend to correct it by visiting as soon as possible
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A place I'd like to visit 15 Aug 2010
By M. K. Burton VINE VOICE
One spring morning in Catalunya, Matthew Parris came across an awesome sight; a large, moldering, old house that immediately spoke to him. Clearly medieval and once high status and in the process of remodeling, the house had been left to sit and rot for at least fifty years. It was called L'Avenc; virtually everyone in the small nearby town knew about it and thought its slow destruction was sad, but none of them was going to save it. So Parris, his sister Belinda and her husband, and her husband's brother put together the money and purchased the house themselves. The remodelling took longer and was more expensive than any of them had imagined, but their goal to save the house kept them going through catastrophe after catastrophe.

I've seen it bandied about that this entire book is mostly an advertisement for the holiday cottages Parris and his family built alongside the house, but I thought it was quite a lot more than that, especially considering I didn't even realize that you could stay there until halfway through the book. (Of course, I want to now, so if it was an advertisement, it worked.) I loved the fact that these four people took on this medieval house. One of them did research into its origins and found out the various stages of its actual construction; parts of it date from the 12th century. Anyone who spends hundreds of thousands to rescue a medieval house is awesome, and this book truly gets across the author's love for this house and its character.

He also conveys the vast difficulty, sometimes seemingly insurmountable, of actually restoring the house. The roof was falling in, the floors were rotting away, and there were no plumbing, electricity, or telephone lines.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book 27 Oct 2009
By john
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was an interesting read about doing up this ancient house, however, I would have liked more photos and descriptions of how the work was done. There are a few black and white photos but it is not really a book about how to do it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A genuine good read. 19 Feb 2014
Format:Audio CD
I enjoyed the book immensely, and wanted to buy some copies for my Catalan friends as gifts. ( I have lived in Catalunya for the past 11 years. I thought that it would be nice to also include the audio book (read by the author himself) so they could read it and listen at the same time. Luckily I decided to listen to it myself first - otherwise they may well have lynched me! The pronunciation of Catalan place names was appalling and REALLY got on my nerves. Montseny became Montseni, Vic - Beak on so on. If you have never been to Catalunya and don't plan on ever going there, this small lapse of preparation won't matter a jot, listen on and enjoy the audiobook. However if you have been there, or plan on visiting it - stick with the book - because it's brilliant!
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