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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 29 May 2017
Informative and very interesting book.
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on 22 November 2005
I have visited this little visited part of northern spain and loved its unusual "grand canyon" like geography. The book completely captured the nature of the coutry, its history and people. The massive task of restoring L'Venc has just the right detail to draw you on so that you felt part of the team and longed for its success. Although Matthew says it is is not a travel book. I am off to see the place first chance I get.
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VINE VOICEon 15 August 2010
One spring morning in Catalunya, Matthew Parris came across an awesome sight; a large, moldering, old house that immediately spoke to him. Clearly medieval and once high status and in the process of remodeling, the house had been left to sit and rot for at least fifty years. It was called L'Avenc; virtually everyone in the small nearby town knew about it and thought its slow destruction was sad, but none of them was going to save it. So Parris, his sister Belinda and her husband, and her husband's brother put together the money and purchased the house themselves. The remodelling took longer and was more expensive than any of them had imagined, but their goal to save the house kept them going through catastrophe after catastrophe.

I've seen it bandied about that this entire book is mostly an advertisement for the holiday cottages Parris and his family built alongside the house, but I thought it was quite a lot more than that, especially considering I didn't even realize that you could stay there until halfway through the book. (Of course, I want to now, so if it was an advertisement, it worked.) I loved the fact that these four people took on this medieval house. One of them did research into its origins and found out the various stages of its actual construction; parts of it date from the 12th century. Anyone who spends hundreds of thousands to rescue a medieval house is awesome, and this book truly gets across the author's love for this house and its character.

He also conveys the vast difficulty, sometimes seemingly insurmountable, of actually restoring the house. The roof was falling in, the floors were rotting away, and there were no plumbing, electricity, or telephone lines. The construction went on for years, hampered by legal difficulties and an angry neighbor who cut off the family's water supply and refused to reinstate it. It's not even finished when the book is, although I think it must be by now.

A Castle in Spain is also partly travelogue, with Parris extoling the virtues of various parts of Catalunya (also spelled Catalonia). He expresses plenty of regret that people mostly visit Spain to go to cramped beaches and cities instead of exploring the beauty of its interior, Catalunya in particular. I must admit that despite my recent interest in travelogues, I found these parts a bit boring. I would love to visit Spain, but I am not sure Parris's writing style is that suited to it, and I found his discussions of the house much more interesting.

This book is a very interesting tale of a family and a mission, with some history and culture thrown in for good measure. It is perhaps not the most standout of its genre, but it certainly made me curious about the area. I wish I could actually afford one of the holiday cottages, if only to see it all myself in person. Recommended if you like travelogues, memoirs, and old, crumbling houses. It seems to be out of print, but used copies are about for fairly low prices.
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on 14 May 2012
This is a new revised and updated edition of a Castle is Spain, with corrections and some new information in a new added chapter at the end. It also has a plan of the house. It's worth buying and giving as a present to people who like to know about restoring an old house in Catalunya, and also know more about Catalunya (Catalonia in English) and the Catalans, which are quite different from typical Spanish people. A good evidence is that the Catalan Parliment voted to ban bullfights in Catalunya, and so this year on there won't be any torture in Barcelona, which had the only last active bullring in Catalunya. We now hope it spreads to Spain and other parts of the world.
Adam Macià.
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on 27 January 2013
I probably expected a bit more from someone that can write the way Mathew Parris does when he's given a budget of 500 words. Although I did want to keep going, I found myself skim reading here and there whenever Matthew started pondering the intricies of the Catalan psyche or the Catalan behavioural traits which seemed to run for a few pages at a time. The historical background of the building was interesting and some of the characters were great, I just wish Matthew had spent a bit more time telling us a bit more about the many people that were involved in his project.
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on 22 June 2007
This is an enchanting story, about a spectacular house, in a magical location - in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. Having enjoyed reading Parris's periodic articles about the restoration of this property in 'The Times' between 1999 and 2006, I nevertheless approached this book with a degree of caution - mindful of the old saw that 'a journalist never lets the truth get in the way of a good story'. My caution was misplaced. Unlike Peter Mayle, et al, Parris has both feet planted firmly in the real world. Having fallen in love with this mysterious and majestic old house through the pages of his book, I visited it for a short holiday in June 2007. I discovered that the book is indeed non-fiction, and 100% honest and true to life. It was the holiday of a lifetime, which I unreservedly recommend to all except members of the 'disco brigade'. A stunning location, blissful views, unspoilt medieval villages, and walking trails without equal. Although it feels a world away from the UK tourist trail, 'L'Avenc' is only a 90 minute drive from Barcelona and the Costa Brava. Read the book and visit one of the delightful and very high standard holiday cottages which adjoin the old house. You will not be disappointed!
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on 9 April 2012
Revised edition with new features.

There is a new edition of the book that will be on sale in May 2012, and I've been able to read it, as I'm Matthew Parris's nephew. It's good as this new edition includes a floor plan of the project, an added preface and a new last chapter. It brings the story up-to-date and hopefully answers some of the questions readers may have had while reading the original book as well as illustrating the recovery of the house with a carefully drawn and detailed floor plan. Also if you are interested in visiting, look at house website:
[...] (.cat for Catalunya, not the animal, haha)
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on 23 September 2013
My Son and his family and friends went to stay in a accommodation near to the house L'Avenc and visited it.Reading the book and seeing the photos they took while they where there made it more interesting and enjoyable to read. This was a book that would have have made a excellent TV documentary.Thanks MATTHEW PARRIS for sharing you dream.
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on 18 August 2015
What a great life you are having Matthew. Enjoy your writing.
I live in France and Portugal (summer in France) travel between the two will try to visit the area you write about in Spain.
Can I keep up with progress at your "Castle" on a web site?
Kind regards Pete Merry
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on 16 May 2011
Having long been a fan of matthew Parris and his writings I knew I was going to like this book. The story of his and his family's love affair with an extremely old building in Spain was thoroughly enjoyable and told with such love and passion.
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