Ever wondered how easy it would be to start new life in a different country? Fiestas and Siestas Miles Apart is a humorous look at what happened to the Cuthbertson family, Alan and Heather along with daughters Stacey and Ashlie when they decide to sell everything, including the family stationery business, load the family car and move from England to Spain.
Unfortunately half way through the process the girls have other ideas and take off on their own adventure across Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. The naivety of the un-streetwise pair is shown in the emails and texts received by their parents, who themselves are finding Spanish life a very steep learning curve. Who knew fried sparrow was a delicacy? And Alan's first hunting trip is not a completely successful expedition, but a very funny one. Eventually the Cuthbertson family finds the house and village of their dreams, but this is just the beginning of their adventures in Spain.
Alan and his wife, a British couple, decide to sell everything and move to Spain. Their two daughters, in the meantime, head towards Australia and New Zealand to spend a whole year down under.
This was a very light listen with hilarious moments, and correctly structured, having the emails from their daughters Ashleigh and Stacy placed in between chapters. Contrary to other books about English-speaking people in other countries, this one did not have too many expressions along with their translation, which made it smoother to the listener.
I was very interested in reviewing this book, and see what image of the Spanish people the author would give. Despite being done with great care I have to warn the readers that this book is a very particular subset of the Spanish population. I agree that if you go to very small villages (some houses did not even have a road but a path leading to them) you will meet people like the one described in the book, but life is very different in towns and large cities. Cuthbertson mentions that Spanish people do not consider animals like family members, and I have to say that it is like this in small villages where people still farm for a living, but not in other environments. Also, the myth about Fiestas and Siestas is just not true out of this kind of places. There were also many generalizations, also because of the same reason, just having met a very particular subset of people.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this book and laughed at many of the anecdotes. I know people from places like the one Cuthbertson describes and I could see similar things happening.
Another aspect is that I did not see a real effort from the couple to learn Spanish for good. They got along with broken Spanish and it is true that they did not really need more since looking for a job was not part of their plan. It is just that properly learning the language of the country where you live seems a useful way of occupying your time, apart from spending it between bars and fiestas.
Richard Southworth delivered a pleasant narration, and you could very well imagine that you were listening to Alan Cuthbertson himself. He had some issues pronouncing some words in Spanish, which could have also happened to Cuthbertson, so I do not really know how to evaluate this. I would have expected a better pronunciation, but it is also true that many of the sentences in Spanish in the book were incorrect.
This was an enjoyable listen, light and humorous. Just do not expect a very rigorous portrait of the Spanish people.
Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
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3 of 4 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
Difficult to say.
What was most disappointing about Alan Cuthbertson’s story?
Having lived in Spain for 16 years, I found several unnecessary factual errors which were annoying. The author obviously does live in Spain but should have taken greater care with his facts.
How did the narrator detract from the book?
When choosing a narrator for a book including a spattering of foreign words, it would be better to have someone with at least a knowledge of the correct pronunciation of that language. Also, there is a section in the book which deals with the Spanish people's inability to pronounce the author's wife's name but the narrator pronounces certain sounds incorrectly which, not only is detracting, but also makes this part of the story a bit pointless.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Any additional comments?
Not a bad book but probably not for those who've done the same thing. This genre is led by Chris Stewart's "Driving Over Lemons" - this book is a poor imitation.
This was a pretty great listen, with several moments that had me laughing out loud. I have been to Spain many times, and have English friends who did the whole pack up and move thing... there was a lot of information that some don't consider in moving abroad, and the family really are put through the mill. And I've seen some of that with what my own friends have been through. There could have been some more details on the process of how and what the paperwork was involved, but I wasn't sure if the author had actually been through the process themselves and it might have been a lot more research than they were wanting to do. But it did still give us a good insight into what can happen, what can go wrong and how families pull together of course.
Of the two sister what an adventure they have themselves, leaving their parents with many a problem to worry over, without the stuff they're going through themselves.
Richard has a lovely tone to his voice, and he did a good job with the narration. I am eager to see what he does next :)