Top positive review
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It's just as funny - and even better written
on 1 June 2006
Well, I have read the book and can report it is just as funny as "Lemons" and "Parrot", and even better written. Those of us who have followed Chris's escapades in those books will be pleased to know that he is still at El Valero, his Spanish mountain farm, and still just as full of zest for life as ever. In "Almonds" we get to see Chris coping with his daughter Chlöe becoming a Spanish teenager, and laugh aloud through further farces on the farm, like when the police come to arrest his scarecrow, or when he louses up his entire olive crop.
But there is also a serious - and new - strand in this book, which is Morocco, Africa and Fortress Europe. Chris finds himself on the frontline of immigration to Europe when a group of Moroccan youths turn up, en route from a terrible, dangerous crossing of the straits to seeking work in the greenhouses around Almeria. They walk the backroads to avoid detection, and pass by El Valero. Caught up in their plight, Chris goes to work in an advice centre in Granada, and, as you would expect, he is not cut out for office work! He then retraces the immigrants' route, with writer friend Michael Jacobs, but ends up eating more jamon and drinking more wine than is strictly Muslim. It's all described as a self-deprecating farce, but beneath the humour he has a point to make about tolerance. We also get some marvellous descriptions - perhaps the best writing Chris has done in any of his books - about his own time in Morocco, a few years back, scratching a living seed collecting in the Middle Atlas.
All in all, this is another great slice of Stewart and one that remains entirely rooted in 'real life' - very far from the ex-pat ramblings of so many of his imitators. Most important, he remains an irresistibly funny writer, with a voice uniquely his own, and a style of storytelling that is never less than engaging.