64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2009
From the moment I began to read this beautifully written book, it became my secret friend, drawing me into a world that I was dying to see. I put my work aside for two days and did nothing but read. This story sits apart from so many other books about "a new life somewhere" or "doing up a house abroad" for it is not just about that. Evocatively written and well researched, it weaves the day to day experiences of the author and his gentle partner together with folklore, plant lore, local characters, and a perfect dollop of history. Each morsel of information is fascinating and the little fairy tales give further insight into a rapidly disappearing part of rural Spain with its moorish and cathar associations. Reading this marvellous account gave me a deeper understanding of mountain life in Spain and also made me frightened for its future looming ominiously. What will happen in the years to come? If there was ever a book that begged a sequel, then this one is it.
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2009
Whether it is writing about the intricacies of flamenco or the complexities of the Spanish Civil War, Webster consistently gets under the skin of modern day Spain better than any other current writer. His new book - with its lure of escapism and learned examination of local folklore and traditions - is no exception. Reading this book is a perfect way to beat the credit crunch blues!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2009
Thank you Jason for yet another well written and 'verdad' book about Spain, I travel through Spain every year and you have the insight and the sentivity to the 'spanish' way that certain other high profile writers do not have. I am just so envious of your experience and language/musical skills. That makes this a book to re-read and enjoy many times. Evocative and so TRUE to Spain. Gracias Duncan
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2011
If you have read any Jason Webster (his fabulously researched and eruditely written journeys into the heart of Spain via flamenco, the Moors and the Civil War) and enjoyed his determination to get to grips with what makes Spain so Spanish, then this will further your admiration of his oeuvre. If you haven't previously read any Jason Webster, but appreciate Spain/european folklore/getting to know nature/travel writing, then this is a book for you. Forget all those disastrously rigid and turgid accounts with "A Year in Tuscany/Provence/etc" in their title. This is not in the same league, and nor does it try to be.
Whilst there are similarities to the wonderful Chris Stewart 'Lemons...'/Annie Hawes 'Olives...' trilogies (if you enjoy this book but haven't read those sets, GET THEM NOW!) Jason Webster is his own man, forging a path of writing that combines elements of diary, story-telling and acute observation, weaving the whole into a well-formed narrative following the seasons of the land that he shares with the mountains, animals and plant-life, all of which he acknowledges has long existed before him and will long outlive him, too.
As with his earlier boooks, he has a knack for spotting, questioning and searching elements of indigenous life and experience, taking the reader on a discovery tour of all that surrounds him. Using ancient moorish texts and local wisdom to guide him, he sets out to live not ON the land but WITH the land, existing in harmony and tandem with all that survives the harsh weather on the sierra. With other writers what might have been incongruous, he intersperses more daily routines of planting and harvesting with tales and talk with which the locals infuse and enthuse him. There is an air of spirituality and symbiosis with the earth, in particular through his encounter with Faustino ("the part-time hermit"), which takes this book away from the ordinary travel writing that breeds upon the bookshop shelves.
This book makes a wonderful companion to his other writings, as well as to the aforementioned Chris Stewart and Annie Hawes books, and it would be lovely to think he might furnish us with a sequel of sorts one day, the better that we may know how his olive trees, truffles and arboretum fare.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2010
Jason Webster has lived in Spain for many years, and made a life there. He lives with a Spanish flamenco dancer, speaks the language and eats the food - he's not just an ex-pat there for a sunnier version of his own life.
Having lived in Valencia itself, and tired of the heat and the noise, Jason and Salud decide the time is right to buy an old farm (a 'mas' in the local language) and see if they can live the good life in the mountains. But most of the mas have been abandoned as people left for the city in search of an easier life, and there are many perils of living on the mountains - not least the wild boar and the hunters who roam across even private property in order to keep them under control.
Sacred Sierra follows Jason and Salud through their first year on the mountain. We meet their neighbours, a colourful bunch of characters who live on the mountain. One is the fastest thing on crutches; another lives like a hermit further up the mountain and tells stories during the week - but on the weekend his wife comes to visit. All of these are beautifully and intriguingly rendered, and make for a good read.
But it was Jason's details about the plant life in and around the mas that really captured my imagination. There are olive and almond trees, all neglected, that he attempts to bring back into cultivation, rejoicing in even the tiniest harvest of their own nuts and olive oil. He plants a vegetable patch at the back of the house and embarks on an ambitious truffle tree project, both of which suffer from the attentions of the wild boar.
There's bee keeping adventures, mushroom foraging and ways to cook snails. And between each chapter there are renditions of Spanish stories - folk lore from the past.
Enthralling, fascinating and informative, this is one 'travalogue' which shows you a lovely slice of life from a corner of Spain which is normally kept hidden, away from the glare of the well-known 'Costas'.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2009
From the moment I opened this book, I could not put it down, I thought that the myths written before the start of each chapter might spoil the story, but it didn't.
I hope that in time there is a sequel to this, if so I will certainly be buying it.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2009
Jason Webster has produced a fantastic book - a mixture of an insight into the "mas" culture of rural Valencian countryside; including old traditional tales and a sensory delight. Not to be read quickly, this is a book to savour and probably re-read to enrich the soul. A must for anyone who loves Spain, but also who loves excellent quality writing.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2011
Wow, I absolutely LOVE the way Jason Webster manages to tell a fact whilst creating all the thrill of a mystery!
As soon as i picked up this book, i knew no housework would be done for the next week.
No better recommendation needed than this:
Having read this book, i went straight out and bought his previous 3 books,and read them all in just over a month!
Can't wait for the next installment of Jasons life in Spain
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2010
A marvellous, well crafted book which I thoroughly recommend to all who yearn to live in the rural Spain that is so different from the "costas". A sprinkling of myth and folklore, interwoven with lessons of farming and real Spanish life, a delicate, often amusing and always informative narrative makes so many other "Let's move to Spain and do-up a finca" stories seem bland. Please can we have a sequel?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2010
Jason Webster has written a colourful and remarkable account of his experiences working in Spain to revive an ancient farm in the mountains above Valencia. In his previous work which has explored his discoveries as a flamenco guitarist or the Moorish influence on Spanish culture, Webster has revealed himself to be a courageous traveller-adventurer so I must admit that I was a bit concerned that I would find Sacred Sierra a bit sedate by comparison. I was soon swept away by his passion for his new undertaking, his enthusaism for finding out about the trees and plants in the terraces that surround his home and his lively accounts of the fesitvals and parties that he experienced. Webster's writing can be moving and reflective, but the honesty and the gentle humour of the book make it very readable and I enjoyed it immensely.