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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 30 August 2002
When one thinks of English in Spain, you automatically assume Frank Butcher types in tight Speedo trunks loitering drunk in Lineker's Bar and eating fry-ups all day.
Chris Stewart and his wife Ana are Ex-Pats, but with a difference. Rather than trying to make Spain English, they left these shore to adapt to the Spanish agricultural lifestyle, and enjoy the atmosphere on their new property in Las Alpajurras.
The book brings together a sentiment of blissful happiness, and you can almost smell the lemon blossom on the front cover.
I enjoyed this book as much as I did 'Mukiwa', by Peter Godwin, but without any of the poigniancy and heartache felt in Godwin's work.
A fantastic read, well worth 5 stars.
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on 6 March 2004
I picked up this expecting a variation on the "Year in Provence" theme and found I was totally wrong. The Englishman abroad idea was still the basis of the book however, there the similarity ended. Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia is much more beievable and real. There is no feeling that the stories have been elaborated or embroidered. You sense a commitment to the simplicity of this way of life and that despite the popularity of the novel the family will not be "selling out" on this lifestyle. At the end I felt as though I had experienced the ups and downs of the first years with him. Whilst I came away knowing I would have hated it in many ways I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. Highly recommended and compulsive reading.
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on 4 May 2004
I purchased this book, purely on impulse, whilst waiting at Manchester Airport. My companion had holidayed on the Costas on a number of occasions, but this was to be my first visit to Andalucia. We had booked to spend a fortnight in what was described in the brochure as "a typical spanish village house in a remote setting amongst the foothills of the Alpujara mountains", and neither of us was at all sure what to expect from the countryside and the people we would be meeting there.
We quickly settled in to our temporary new home and I opened the pages of "Driving Over Lemons" at the side of our little swimming pool on the outskirts of Durcal, a short drive south of Granada, with high mountains providing a dramatic backdrop.
Ten minutes or so later I realised with a start that amongst those mountains lay the location of Mr Stewart's book.
Long before I reached the end of the book I felt "at home" in Andalusia, confident of what I could expect from this wonderful place.
Oh, this is not a traveller's guidebook, (though the author has, in fact, written those, too). It is a story about a man and his family coming to terms with a dream, and about making a place for themselves within that dream. It is a story of an Englishman learning to live amongst the countryside and the people of Andalucia.
If you are planning to take a Spanish holiday away from the beaches of Southern Spain, you will find this book, and its sequel "A Parrot in the Pepper Tree" to be as essntial as your sun-lotion, and you must buy a copy!
If, on the other hand, you are NOT planning such a trip, I suggest that you buy the book anyway! You will find it almost as good as a real holiday in the sun - and as you turn the last page, I'd not be surprised to learn that you learn that you felt the urge to book a trip to see these lovely mountains and villages for yourself.
A most enjoyable and informative story, and I urge you to read it!
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on 5 August 2001
I ordered this book with one of your £5 vouchers that I had won in a competition. This was an excellent read and was full of humour and evoked a wonderful feeling of knowing all the locals personally. As someone who loves the Spanish way of life it only served to make me more determined to get to my goal and move there. Chris Stewart's desriptions of the area and the local people were not airey fairy but was full of love and humour and shows that it is possible for an English family to move into the "wilds" of Spain and fit in, rather than congregating along the coast and only mixing with the ex-pat community. I would recommend this book to anyone and have done! It really was an excellent read and I look forward to the next volume.
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on 4 March 2000
An excellent narrative of Chris,Ana and latterly Chloe and their adventure buying a remote farm and adapting to living in Southern Spain. Not a taxing read by any means and this is indeed to its credit.The writing style of Chris Stewart is simple but sincere.Whether you are sitting at home reading this book in the mid of winter or in the summer sun on your holiday, this is a fantastic book. The subject of this book could have been so mediocre and boring: The reality is a book as fresh as the lemons they drove over! Do not miss it!
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on 6 June 2000
Chris Stewart can never be discouraged, not even when everything seems to go wrong. Maybe his secret is to discover again those things that really matter in life, and friendship above everything. All this happens in a lovely setting in the mountains, where Nature can be beautiful but also demanding and even merciless. And the cast of characters, in the shape of both long-time neighbours and casual acquaintances, is a countinous source of surprises and enjoyment.
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on 10 August 2003
Reviewed by: Rachael from Manchester, reading it in Andalucia.
Driving over lemons shows the real side of relocating to what would seem like an idyllic life in Spain. Chris (Cristobal) describes the everyday ups and downs of living on a farm in Andalucia, from getting access to a water supply to the birth of his daughter. He tells how his Spanish neighbours accept him into their community, teaching him how to build, farm and generally survive.

It is a heart-warming book that has spawned many lukewarm imitations. I am now about to read the 'sort of sequel' called 'A Parrot in the Pepper Tree' - I will keep you posted.
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on 10 December 1999
Which isn't actually an entirely bad thing. I was recommended this book by a friend of mine, who evidently knows me better than I thought. Chris Stewart, the somewhat knaive eternal optimist, paints a vivid, radiant picture of what life is like for a foreigner living in Andalucia, while his wife interjects every now and again, bringing him back down to earth with a bump.
This is a fantastic, heartwarming autobiographical tale which will appeal to that little escapist inside all of us that secretly longs to get away from modern life and go and run a farm. Gently amusing, but never trying too hard, this is one of the best books I've read in a very long time
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on 12 October 2003
I read both his books whilst on holiday this year, during the first rather wet week! You cannot help but have a smile on your face throughout. A charming book, written in an easy style, I recommend both to anyone even if you are not a travel writing reader.
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If you've enjoyed Peter Mayle's series on Provence initiated when he and his wife bought and refurbished a dilapidated French farmhouse, or EXTRA VIRGIN by Annie Hawes, then you'll be positively enamored of DRIVING OVER LEMONS, written by Chris Stewart, another Brit wishing to escape the island. Perhaps it's the weather.
Chris, a sheep-shearer and sometime travel writer, begins his narrative as he's traveling alone in Spain's Andalusia. Right off, he spends his life's savings on a somewhat isolated, but definitely rustic, farm called El Valero without first calling England to consult with his wife, Ana. (Now, this strikes me as a markedly hazardous course, and brings to mind the prudent caution, "Don't try this at home".) In any case, he adroitly manages to sell the concept to a dubious spouse, and soon the Stewarts and the family dog cut all ties to Sussex and immigrate to their new rural residence.
One major difference between author Stewart and author Mayle is that the former doesn't dwell hedonistically on the food and wine of his adopted country. (One brief reference to a local delicacy favored by Macho Locals, burnt chicken's heads, may indicate the grounds for such an omission.) Rather, DRIVING OVER LEMONS is all about rebuilding El Valero into something more civilized, installing running water via an ancient aqueduct, constructing a bridge over a river that flows through the property, acquiring and maintaining a herd of sheep, begetting a daughter, Chloe, and interacting with the natives and other members of the Foreign Community. However, one characteristic that Chris does share with Mayle (and Hawes) is a wonderfully dry and entertaining wit that seems to be a genetic trait of British expatriate writers. For example, when describing the belated christening ceremony of 3 year-old Chloe:
"Chloe looked as if she was about to cut up rough but Ana managed to bribe her into a hesitant co-operation by flashing the edge of a bar of chocolate, kept at the ready in her pocket, and pointing meaningfully towards the altar. Chloe edged forward throwing side glances at the chocolate in the way that sailors keep a lighthouse in view when crossing onshore tides. (After the ceremony) Ana and I breathed a sigh of relief as she slunk back to (her best friend) Rosa clutching her chocolate. I like to think they shared it. It's no good going through the form of the thing, you have to act by its precepts."
I enjoyed this volume immensely, and hope that Stewart, like Mayle, will make a literary series of it. Andalusia is a place I will likely never visit, and Chris is a convivial and likable guide.
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