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R. D. Bovington "Robert Bovington" (Roquetas Spain)
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Adam Bede (Penguin Classics)
Adam Bede (Penguin Classics)
by George Eliot
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars ...an exceedingly good read!, 18 May 2015
George Eliot's "Adam Bede" is a delightful read and is a tale of simple country folk in an early nineteenth century rural community.

The main character is carpenter Adam Bede - a strong, righteous man who cares for his aging mother. He does have a weakness - he's in love with vain but beautiful Hetty Sorrel. Unfortunately for Adam, the young Hetty is deluded into thinking that the flirtatious attentions of Captain Donnithorne may lead to marriage.

It is not just a story about a love triangle featuring seduction, murder, and retribution. It is a leisurely novel featuring many interesting characters that include Adam's brother Seth Bede; Methodist preacher Dinah Morris; Hetty's uncle and aunt, the Poysers and their brood of children; Reverend Irwine, the local Anglican minister and teacher Bartle Massey.

At times, George Eliot diverts the reader from the main plot of the story to describe the activities of the locals in their day-to-day life. The author provides the reader with vivid descriptions of the people; their drinking and harvest parties and particularly the landscapes as the seasons unfold. Occasionally, the novel is difficult to follow when the author slips into the 19th century rural dialect but overall the book is an exceedingly good read.


Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia
by Chris Stewart
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An eternal optimist Englishman in Andalucía, 27 Oct. 2011
My wife bought this book about ten years ago having heard a review on Radio 2. She enjoyed reading it and so did I. More than that, it inspired us to move to Spain. I must admit, though, that we didn't entirely follow in Chris Stewart's footsteps - working a farm in the Alpujarras sounded like much too much hard work so we relocated to the coast instead.
However, intrigued by Chris Stewart's book we began to explore the Alpujarras and during the last eight years have spent many enjoyable days in that delightful region.
Recently, I reread "Driving Over Lemons" and still found it a funny, heartwarming book. In fact I enjoyed it more the second time around because I have visited some of the places and seen some of the things described - hillsides covered with olive and almond trees; the Moorish influenced houses that appear to cling precariously to the mountainsides; the acequias designed to bring water from the high Sierra to irrigate the crops and much more!
However, this book isn't your normal travelogue - it is an autobiography of an eternally optimistic Englishman starting a new life in Andalucía. It is a great read that describes both the highs and the lows of starting a new life in Spain.


Dead Man's Grip (Ds Roy Grace 7)
Dead Man's Grip (Ds Roy Grace 7)
by Peter James
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping!, 26 Jun. 2011
"Dead Man's Grip" by Peter James
A Review by Robert Bovington

Location: A balcony in Andalusia
Diane: "Are you going to sit out there reading all day?"
Bob: "No. I've nearly finished this chapter."
Bob finishes the chapter of Peter James' latest thriller and reluctantly goes indoors to help his wife.

It is often like this when I read Peter's Roy Grace novels. It is as though the books are stuck to my hands with superglue, which is most appropriate in the case of "Dead Man's Grip" because one of the murders in the book involves the ultra strong adhesive.
This book is totally gripping. As usual, most of the action takes place in the vibrant city of Brighton and Hove. Student Tony Revere is killed which is rather unfortunate for the unsuspecting characters who are directly or indirectly involved in the fatal traffic accident. His American parents have Mafia connections and hire "Tooth", a psychotic hit man to exact terrible revenge on those involved with their son's death.
As with all the books in the Roy Grace series, the attention to detail is exemplary, especially police procedure - author Peter James' painstaking research ensures that the police action is believable. His characters, too, are credible. There are the normal suspects - in this sense I mean Roy Grace's team including sidekick Glenn Branson and the politically incorrect Norman Potting. Also featured are the threads from previous books including Roy's girlfriend Cleo and his missing wife Sandy.
This is another addictive crime thriller and I particularly like the Brighton connection because I, like Peter James, grew up in the area.
I do, however, sometimes wonder whether the crimes are a bit far fetched. Or are they! I think I'll remain in Spain rather than return to my roots!


History of the Moors of Spain
History of the Moors of Spain
by M. Florian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "History of the Moors of Spain" - A Review by Robert Bovington, 26 Jun. 2011
"History of the Moors of Spain" by M Florian
A Review by Robert Bovington
I have read a number of books relating to the Moors' occupation of Spain including Washington Irving's excellent "Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada" and "Tales of the Alhambra. "History of the Moors of Spain" by M.Florian is an even more comprehensive account, at times too much so. It sometimes reads like the Book of Genesis with its frequent mention of who beget whom. Despite the occasional tedium, the book is a well-constructed history. It also contains a great deal that I find interesting, particularly the description of the Alhambra and Generalife.
The book has four main sections corresponding to four distinct epochs. The first covers the period 711-750, starting from when Tariq-Ibn-Zeyad and his army crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, which marked the beginning of the Muslim domination in Spain. This period ends with the Umayyad Caliphs of Damascus being relocated in Córdoba. This first section of the book also includes events in Asia and Africa during the 6th & 7th centuries that led to the spread of Islamism prior to the occupation of Iberia.
The second section of the book includes the reigns of the Caliphs in the west: the third relates to the various small Taifa kingdoms erected from the ruins of the Caliphate of Córdoba. The fourth part covers the prominent events in the lives of the rulers of the Kingdom of Granada. It culminates with the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain and, of course, includes the fall of Granada in 1492.
French author M.Florian wrote the book in the 18th century but my Kindle version was published in 1910 and translated into English by an American lady whose name I haven't been able to ascertain. Anyway, she did a good job and, all in all, this book is comprehensive history of the Moors in Spain.

Robert Bovington
Roquetas de Mar June 2011


Spanish Steps: Travels With My Donkey
Spanish Steps: Travels With My Donkey
by Tim Moore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Long Hard Slog, 29 May 2011
Spanish Steps - Travels With My Donkey by Tim Moore
A Review by Robert Bovington

I found this book annoying, often tedious, occasionally interesting and very occasionally funny. So why did I find the book annoying? Well to start with, various critics have described the author as humorous - inside the book cover, `Image' described Tim as "Without a doubt, the funniest travel writer in the world"; the `Irish Times' even hailed him as the new Bill Bryson. What rubbish! I find Bill Bryson so interesting and amusing that I have read all his travel books two or three times and even his other, more serious, works like "Mother Tongue" and "Shakespeare" are funnier and better written than Tim Moore's book about his long expedition with a donkey. Like his journey, I found the book a long hard slog.
I found his writing style extremely verbose, sometimes undecipherable and often plain irritating - okay, the word `click' may be military slang for a kilometre but I found the copious use of the word irksome. I found his humour often grated - too many puns and too adolescent. I certainly didn't `laugh out loud' but, to be fair, I did chuckle to myself on a couple of occasions. I didn't mind, either, some of his `toilet' humour, though there were too many references to donkey poo for my liking.
So what were the good points? Well, Tim Moore follows the travel writer's `well worn path' by describing many of the places he visits and supplementing this with quite a bit of history. He does this quite well. He also manages to get across to the reader the sheer scale of the journey - the good bits and the bad. Blistered, sometimes sun-scorched, occasionally rain-soaked, the author does a credible job of describing his 750-kilometre trek across northern Spain accompanied by a donkey.
I can applaud Tim Moore for completing the `Compostela de Santiago' even if his ulterior motive was to provide material for a book. However, in my view, it is nowhere near the best travel book I have read. He may have walked the path of St. James but he is not yet fit to be mentioned in the same company as Washington Irving, Gerald Brenan, Ernest Hemingway or Chris Stewart - nor Bill Bryson.


Glories of Spain
Glories of Spain
by FRGS CHARLES W. WOOD
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

4.0 out of 5 stars "Glories of Spain" by Charles W. Wood, 11 May 2011
This review is from: Glories of Spain (Paperback)
"Glories of Spain" was published in 1901 and describes the travels and adventures of Charles W. Wood and his friends, on a trip to Spain.
Despite the book title, the party only visited the east of the country. Nevertheless it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Charles W. Wood thoroughly describes the places he visits - Gerona, Barcelona, Montserrat, Manresa, Lerida, Zaragoza, Tarragona, Poblet, Tortosa and Valencia but, more than that he provides the reader with a thoroughly entertaining dialogue of the people he meets and their stories. And what an interesting bunch! They included former sweethearts Sister Rosalie and Father Anselmo who sacrificed their love for each other for a life in the Church and the hopeful reward of life together in Heaven; Ernesto and his mother; Salvador the Monk who preferred to live in a cave than the monastery at Montserrat and Monseigneur Delormais and his world-wide travels. Then there was the downtrodden night porter and his wife Rose aka the Dragon; Quasimodo and his beautiful music; blind Nerissa and her husband Alphonse; Loretta & her donkeys and more.
The author enthuses over many of the monuments he visits and provides the reader with detailed histories of some of the places.
Surprisingly, Charles W. Wood is not well known. Very little information was to be found about him when I researched using the Internet. His mother, however, was a famous author - Mrs Henry Wood wrote over thirty novels, the most famous being East Lynn.
Charles W. Wood did write other travel books including "Letters from Majorca" and "In the Valley of the Rhone. He should not be confused with another author of the same name - an American who wrote "The Passing of Normalcy".
In summary, "Glories of Spain" is a delightful travelogue written by an Englishman in the late 1890s.

NB My copy of "Glories of Spain" was a Kindle version
Robert Bovington
May 2011


Glories of Spain
Glories of Spain
by Charles William Wood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.71

4.0 out of 5 stars Glories of Spain by Charles W. Wood, 11 May 2011
This review is from: Glories of Spain (Paperback)
"Glories of Spain" was published in 1901 and describes the travels and adventures of Charles W. Wood and his friends, on a trip to Spain.
Despite the book title, the party only visited the east of the country. Nevertheless it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Charles W. Wood thoroughly describes the places he visits - Gerona, Barcelona, Montserrat, Manresa, Lerida, Zaragoza, Tarragona, Poblet, Tortosa and Valencia but, more than that he provides the reader with a thoroughly entertaining dialogue of the people he meets and their stories. And what an interesting bunch! They included former sweethearts Sister Rosalie and Father Anselmo who sacrificed their love for each other for a life in the Church and the hopeful reward of life together in Heaven; Ernesto and his mother; Salvador the Monk who preferred to live in a cave than the monastery at Montserrat and Monseigneur Delormais and his world-wide travels. Then there was the downtrodden night porter and his wife Rose aka the Dragon; Quasimodo and his beautiful music; blind Nerissa and her husband Alphonse; Loretta & her donkeys and more.
The author enthuses over many of the monuments he visits and provides the reader with detailed histories of some of the places.
Surprisingly, Charles W. Wood is not well known. Very little information was to be found about him when I researched using the Internet. His mother, however, was a famous author - Mrs Henry Wood wrote over thirty novels, the most famous being East Lynn.
Charles W. Wood did write other travel books including "Letters from Majorca" and "In the Valley of the Rhone. He should not be confused with another author of the same name - an American who wrote "The Passing of Normalcy".
In summary, "Glories of Spain" is a delightful travelogue written by an Englishman in the late 1890s.

Robert Bovington
May 2011


Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada
Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada

4.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada, 8 April 2011
"Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada"
Reviewed by Robert Bovington

Half a century ago, in my school history lessons, I received a very blinkered history of Spain. It consisted almost entirely of the Spanish Armada, Christopher Columbus' Discovery of America, the Inquisition, the Battle of Trafalgar, Catherine of Aragon and something about Francis Drake singeing the King of Spain's beard at Cádiz. So, most of it was around the time of Ferdinand and Isabella and, yet, we children learnt nothing of the Moors occupation of Spain, let alone the conquest of Granada. Over the years, I have read a number of history books and all appeared to give a one-sided view of the `Reconquista'. Washington Irving's "Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada" is a welcome departure from the norm.
Not only, in my opinion, is the book a jolly good read, but it appears to be a comprehensive history of the series of events and military campaigns that led to the expulsion of the Moors after 700 years on the Iberian Peninsula.
Washington Irving was something of a hispanophile and yet this book provides the reader with a somewhat balanced account of events. At times, he shows sympathy for the Moors - so much so, that he calls attention to the barbarity of the Christians and the prejudices and ignorance of the Spanish Court. He does this in the guise of "Fray Antonio Agapida", a fictitious character who represents the monkish zealots of the period.
This is no work of fiction, however, though it reads like one. Irving carried out much research during his time in Granada and Seville including visiting the towns and villages that formed the backdrop for the events of this delightful book.

Robert Bovington
March 2011


Familiar Spanish Travels [with Biographical Introduction]
Familiar Spanish Travels [with Biographical Introduction]
Price: £0.90

3.0 out of 5 stars "Familiar Spanish Travels", 8 April 2011
"Familiar Spanish Travels" by William Dean Howells
A review by Robert Bovington

In October 1911, American William Dean Howells travelled to Spain. The author wrote about his experiences in "Familiar Spanish Travels".
As an avid reader of books about Spain, I have mixed feelings about this book. Certainly, I did not enjoy it as much as other books that I have read on the subject. I found Howells' literary style too verbose. I wonder whether the author thought: "Why use two or three pithy adjectives when two or three pages of text will do the same job!"
He describes with great detail the strangers that he encounters on his travels, yet often provides little detail on the principal sights. Many of Howells' sentences are inordinately long - 40, 50 words or more! Yet, despite his longwinded descriptions, Howells manages to convey his thoughts to the reader in both a poetic and an extremely descriptive manner. The reader can easily imagine the bleakness of the Meseta and the "insurpassably dirty and dangerous" gipsy quarters of Granada and Seville. Howells certainly was not, what we today call, politically correct. He frequently describes some of the Spanish women as fat. Nor did the author view his surroundings with rose tinted spectacles. He mentions bad breakfasts; freezing hotels, cold rainy streets and "the thick and noisome stench" of Cervantes former home in Valladolid. But he waxed lyrical about a great deal of his experiences too: the incomparable grandeur of Burgos Cathedral; the glorious masterpiece that is Murillo's "Vision of St Anthony"; the unparalleled beauty of the Alhambra and the magnificent structure that is the Puente Nuevo in Ronda are shortened versions of just some of his descriptions.
I know people's tastes are different but what really surprised me was the author's likes and dislikes regarding the places he visited. He did not like Córdoba but, to be fair, it was raining during his visit and he described the houses as "wet and chill". However, he was also disappointed in that city's beautiful Mezquita. Yet he really liked Algeciras! Certainly, from the author's text, I gathered that he preferred `people watching' to visiting the famous sights, which probably explains the imbalance between his descriptions of people and his accounts of the places visited. But, then, the whole expedition was unbalanced. He spent only half an hour in Toledo's magnificent Cathedral and not much longer in the Mezquita, yet he visited Seville Cathedral every day during his fortnight's stay! He appears to have enjoyed Madrid, especially the Prado and he was greatly taken with Granada though, more for the views from within and without the Alhambra than for the wonderful Arabic architecture. He preferred the Palace of Charles V to the Nasrid Palaces in that magnificent monument to the Moors rule in Spain.
Notwithstanding the author's idiosyncrasies, "Familiar Spanish Travels" will probably be an enjoyable read for those readers who wish to partake of a "warts and all" commentary of life in early 2oth century Spain.

Robert Bovington
April 2011


As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning
by Laurie Lee
Edition: Paperback

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, 13 Mar. 2011
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) is an autobiographical account of an epic journey around Spain in the nineteen thirties.
It is 1934 and Laurie Lee, the author, is a young man. He leaves the security of his Cotswold home to embark on an adventure.
Initially he travels to London and ekes out an existence by playing the violin and by labouring on a London building site. He decides to go to Spain. It seems a rash decision because the young lad's choice of destination is based on the fact that he knows a phrase of Spanish - "¿Puede por favor dame un vaso de agua?" - "Will you please give me a glass of water?"
For a year, he tramps through Spain, from Vigo in the north to Almuñécar on the south coast. During this voyage, he experiences a country that ranges from utter desolation to extreme beauty. He manages to eat by a earning a few pesetas playing his violin. He sleeps at night in his blanket under an open sky or in a cheap, rough posada though occasionally he is rewarded with the warm and generous hospitality of poor village people that he meets along the way.
Laurie Lee provides the reader with a vivid account of life in Spain during the bleak years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. I enjoy reading travel books, especially those about Spain. "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning" is as good as any I have read even though many of the places he visits - Vigo, Valladolid, Cádiz, Tarifa - are described as squalid, dark, decrepit, acrid, and scruffy. Even Seville is both "dazzling and squalid" according to the author. He does praise some of the places he visits- Toro, Segovia, Toledo - who wouldn't! However, Lee's descriptions of the places and peoples that he has encountered are couched in an extremely well written and sometimes poetic prose.
Laurie Lee must have been a good communicator. If we are to believe that he only had one phrase of Spanish then he did extremely well communicating with the people on his travels. His first port of call was Vigo and, I suspect that in July 1935, the ordinary people of that city would have spoken Galician. He would no doubt acquire more words of Spanish as he travelled through Spain but in Córdoba, Seville, Cádiz, Algeciras, Málaga and his final destination, Almuñecar, he would have encountered the Andaluz dialect. A novice in Castilian Spanish might experience some difficulty in understanding the spoken word of the ordinary people of Andalusia.
I enjoyed this book very much. I would recommend "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning" as a thoroughly good read.

Robert Bovington
March 2011


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