Posts Tagged ‘farming’

When Chris Stewart flies to Spain and on impulse buys a farm in the Andalucian mountains, he has no idea what he’s taking on.  The farm has no electricity, no running water, no easy access, and to cap it all, the former who sold it to him does not seem prepared to move out any time soon.  However, Chris and his wife Ana set about making the farm their home and their livelihood.  This book tells the true story of Chris and Ana’s move to a different country and lifestyle and how they created their home out of the remote farm.

This book is charming throughout.  Chris is a thoroughly likeable narrator, and I really liked his wife Ana too.  The way of life in the Andalucian mountains is amusingly and affectionately described, and there are a cast of wonderful characters, in the friends and neighbours who become part of Chris and Ana’s lives.

Stewart is very self-effacing and happy to admit to mistakes made in the early part of the rebuilding process, and as hard as some of the tasks they set themselves undoubtedly were, he somehow managed to make the whole process seem extremely inviting.

I wasn’t sure that this would be my kind of book, but I actually found it to be a gentle and sweet story, that was hard to put down.

Author’s website can be found here.)

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Set in Alaska in the 1920s, this story (based on an old Russian fairy tale) is about Jack and Mabel, a couple who move to live in a farm in a remote part of Alaska, to escape their pain at not being able to have children.  One night they create the figure of a small girl out of snow, and the next morning the snow child has disappeared, but soon a young girl who looks remarkably like their creation appears in the area where they live and befriends them, so that they become almost like parents to her.

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  People recommended it to me, and I read reviews of it prior to reading it, all of which praised the book highly.  So maybe it’s me, but…it just didn’t grab me.  The writing was really quite lovely in places, but the whole thing had an air of detachment and isolation to it – I never really felt engaged in the story.  The detachment and isolation perhaps reflects the isolated location where the story takes place (and certainly the author’s descriptions of the snowy, remote and lonely place where Jack and Mabel are evocative and atmospheric), but for me it also had the unfortunate effect of me not really caring about any of the characters one way or the other.

I did prefer the parts with Faina, the young girl who may or may not be real.  However, there was a large part in the middle of the story where she is not present, and I found that that portion dragged.  As descriptive as the passages of Jack and Mabel’s work at their farm were, it seemed all quite repetitive.  The story picked up pace in the last 100 pages or so however, and I liked that part more.

Certainly I can see the value of this story, and the eloquence in the writing, and it is understandable that so many readers seem genuinely touched by it.  But unfortunately, it just wasn’t for this reader.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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