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But Can You Drink The Water? (Droll, witty, and utterly British) [Kindle Edition]

Jan Hurst-Nicholson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Follow the hilarious lives of the naïve Turner family as they emigrate from Liverpool to sunny South Africa. Laugh out loud as they encounter ‘crocodiles’ on the wall, strange African customs and unintelligible Afrikaans accents. Cringe with them as their visiting in-laws embarrass them in front of their new SA friends.

If you enjoyed Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine you will recognise Mavis Turner.

With a droll, witty, utterly British voice, this manuscript tackles playfully and sincerely the age-old fish out of water tale. What sustains this book, however, is the narrative voice, the dry and self-deprecating humor, and the ability of this author to tell a story simply and well.
Publisher’s Weekly reviewer for the ABNA semi-finals.

Set in the 1970s, BUT CAN YOU DRINK THE WATER? uses subtle observational humour with an underlying pathos to portray the upsets, hurt and changing family dynamics that emigration brings. (The story is based on a 13-part sitcom)
(74 400 words)

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More About the Author

Jan Hurst-Nicholson lives in sunny South Africa where she is personal chef to an elderly picky cat, and doorman to two dogs who are forever on the wrong side of a door. The dogs sit beside her as she works. The cat sleeps on the work.

Her articles, humorous articles and short stories have appeared in South African and overseas magazines and these were compiled into a book: "Something to Read on the Plane - a bit of light literature, short stories & other fun stuff," and "I Made These Up (short stories for the fireside)"

Her first children's book was "Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs" published by Gecko Books, and was one of Bookchat's 1993 South African Books of the Year. This was followed by "Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the kidnapped mouse" which was selected as one of the 2013 Kart Kids Book Award winners. 'Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the bottled bat' is awaiting publication. These are humorous, animal, detective stories set in a nature reserve.
"Bheki and the Magic Light", which tells of a bullied herd boy who becomes a hero, was published by Penguin SA and is now also available as an e-book.
'Jake,' was published by Cambridge University Press.
'The Race (an inspiring story for left-handers)' is her latest children's book. It also has advice for parents and teachers.

Born in the UK, Jan emigrated from Liverpool to South Africa in the 1970s. Her experiences moving to a new continent were the inspiration for her humorous novel, "But Can You Drink The Water?' which was a semi-finalist (top 50 out of 5000) in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Jan worked in the R&D department of a large bakery for several years, and this gave her the idea for "The Breadwinners" a family saga spanning 60 years and set in Durban.

Jan has also written a YA/teen novel, Mystery at Ocean Drive which was a runner-up in the 2010 Citizen/Pan MacMillan YA novel award, and is now available as an e-book on Amazon.

Jan's latest novel is "With the Headmaster's Approval" (general fiction with a romance element).

Jan's writing also appears in Edge Words (20 stories from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2006) published by University of Chester, Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Soul 101 best stories On Being a Parent; Summer Shorts, and My Funny Major Medical .

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't mention the A-word 24 Jun. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jan Hurst-Nicholson emigrated from England to South Africa in 1972. Her novel is set 16 years later in 1988, but you get the feeling she knows what she's talking about.

The book follows the fortunes of Frank and Mavis Turner and their 15-year-old son Gerry from the moment the wheels of the 747 hit the runway at Louis Botha airport. They are a working class family from Liverpool, Scousers to the core. Frank has signed a five-year contract to work in Durban, dragging his reluctant wife and resentful, Mohican-topped offspring with him.

Hurst-Nicholson has a lot of fun with these innocents abroad, doubly baffled by a strange country with its alien climate, food, customs and wildlife, and by their sudden promotion to the bourgeoisie. They survive first encounters with sunburn, geckos, brinjal, litchi and naartjie and discover that, yes, you can drink the water.

Many of the jokes are at their expense, know-it-all know-nothings, but there are wider targets too. The author has a wicked eye for absurdity in the culture they have left behind. Mavis is impressed that their new home has an en-suite bathroom, but the thing that strikes her first is the toilet paper:

"'And decent loo paper too,' she noted, accustomed to the cheap, wood chipped Bronco sheets her mother insisted on because her dad wound them into spills for his pipe."

Very amusing - at first. After a while, though, the digs begin to seem a bit relentless. This is partly because the pitch of the writing varies very little, but partly also because there is really only one gag: the Turners are ignorant and badly educated, conditioned to their cold, wet, council house terraced lives in Liverpool and totally at sea in the wider world.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Recommended. 19 Dec. 2010
Format:Kindle Edition
Personally I ended up living abroad by accident. I went travelling, and I guess I'm not ready to go home to England yet. This is the story of a Liverpudlian family who made a conscious decision to emigrate to South Africa in 1988. Albeit for a 5 year contract. At least, the father made the decision. His wife, Mavis, comes from a closely knit family, and a typical Council estate community. This book had me laughing out loud (which I seldom do) from the first few pages. It is wonderfully observant in the style of Bill Brysons' Tales From A Small Island. If you are an Ex-Pat, or have spent lengthy periods abroad you will recognise the emotions and episodes that beset the family. Gerrys' cry of "Dad there's a crocodile on my wall" had me in stitches.
When the family return to Liverpool, and life as they knew it, Mavis has insights that are so true. The author surely has 'been there, done that' to capture it so well.

The book isn't the longest and I would love to have had another 100 pages to giggle over. That's a good sign isn't it? At the price(under a pound),this is a real bargain buy, and great entertainment.

It is a book outside my normal reading preference, however it is one of the most enjoyable I have read for a long while. Thus I highly recommend this book to you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Left no aftertaste. 9 Mar. 2011
By Apollo
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is not going to change your life but it will give you an insight into life as a new ex-pat even if it is one that is now dated; being set in the late eighties as it is. I'm sure that if you decide to read it you will, like me, enjoy it.

I found the characterisation throughout a little thin and I think that the author could have explored many other avenues, for example Franks life at his new job, which would have fleshed out this book a lot more. It was over too quickly and seemed to jump forward in time too hastily.

The authors own sense of humour showed through when going for the laughs and at times it was little weak. There are only so many times a man can lose a set of dentures before it becomes annoying and Franks pranks (see what I did there?) bordered on downright cruelty at times.

On the upside, the story really evokes the noticeable differences between a cold, dreary England and the perpetual glory of the South Africa that, at the time, was a peaceful garden of the world. We can empathise with both Mavis and Frank who have a very different outlook on the adventure at the outset, yet find common ground and in this regard the book is well written. The author clearly knows the subject matter of SA and I suspect, has a familiarity with the working class ethos of the UK and describes this well in the prose.

Take a sip, you won't regret it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad book for less than a pound 7 Feb. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Lesley: [...]

Set back in 1988, this follows the story of working class Scouser Frank, his wife Mavis and 15 year old Gerry as they move from Liverpool to Durban, South Africa. This light hearted book was an easy read and kept me amused. There are many funny moments as they adjust to life in Durban and discover that in fact it's not the jungle, but that it's certainly not Liverpool either. 'We never shoulda come' is spoken often by Mavis in response to all manner of calamities, major and minor.

They make friends, adjust to the heat and get used to having hired help. The visits' of both Mavis' parents, and later her sister 'our Teresa' and her husband Clive, find Mavis surprising herself as she begins to defend South Africa and their new life. A visit back to England ends up causing both Mavis and Frank to rethink their decisions and confront their true feelings about where 'home' really is. Having lived abroad and experienced this for myself, I would have loved the author to have explored the daily struggles of adapting to a new culture more deeply. I do feel that the characters lacked some depth which this could have addressed. It would have also been lovely to have gotten a greater sense of what Durban was like when they arrived; the sounds, sights and smells which I didn't really feel I experienced.

Verdict: As a Kindle purchase costing me less than a pound this was an easy and enjoyable read but not necessarily one I'd pick up again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great read
Published 16 days ago by Mike Howard
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Witty good holiday type book. Wouldn't say I couldn't put it down but a good read.
Published 1 month ago by barbs
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
What ever turns you on
Published 6 months ago by Budge
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice read
Funny book for those traveling and living overseas.
Published 7 months ago by Peter79
5.0 out of 5 stars love this book!
I have read this book 3 times love it!
Nostalgic,funny,touching & full of love for family life. Recommended. Will read again soon.
Published 9 months ago by tk
One word describes this book BRILLIANT. Obvious that the Author Emigrated from UK to RSA. I and my family left Liverpool same as the Author for RSA also in the 70s. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr B M GALLAGHER
5.0 out of 5 stars The chatacters are real. I'm certain we all have ...
The chatacters are real. I'm certain we all have people they are based on within our own families.
Published 11 months ago by Linda Taylor
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish to be avoided !
This book is neither droll nor witty. Please don't be fooled by the blurb or the cartoon-like cover. What it is, is boring drivel. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Heather Feather
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
loved it
Published 12 months ago by barry taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of But can you drink the water
"l I have have really enjoyed this book about the exploits of a Liverpudlian family who emigrated to South Africa
it is droll and witty as the blurb says, The reader... Read more
Published 12 months ago by keith
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