Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía” as Want to Read:
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía

(Driving Over Lemons Trilogy #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  10,623 ratings  ·  621 reviews
No sooner had Chris Stewart set eyes on El Valero than he handed over a check. Now all he had to do was explain to Ana, his wife, that they were the proud owners of an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain. That was the easy part.

Lush with olive, lemon, and almond groves, the farm lacks a few essentials—running water, electricity, an access road.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by Sort of Books (first published 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
This really is my favourite kind of light reading; what I like to think of as the expat sub-genre of travel writing. You know the drill. Someone decides to opt out of their normal life (bonus points if it's a bit humdrum), goes to foreign country (more bonus points if non- English speaking) and encounters a whole range of amusing misunderstandings and challenges as they establish a new life (even MORE bonus points if they buy a dilapidated house to renovate). Generally they accumulate a small ha ...more
Roy Lotz
I have admit I came to this book with low expectations. The story of an Englishman’s escape into rural Spain seemed to promise only the same endlessly repeated tropes: the hapless foreigner making their way in a strange land, the contrast of dreary modern life with the pure traditions of the unlettered, the isolation of cities compared with the communality of the country—you’ve heard it all before.

But I was pleasantly surprised by the book; indeed, by the end I was thoroughly charmed. Stewart d
Fiona MacDonald
What a wonderfully witty, charming and heart-warming story!
I knew nothing of Chris Stewart before I read this, and only after did I realise that he was the lead drummer in Genesis which is rather impressive!
At the beginning of the book, Chris embarks on a scary but overall fulfilling journey to El Valero, a peasant region in Andalucia where he buys a farm on a whim with no running water, no obvious access to a road, no electricity and no sheep to boot. His wife Ana begrudgingly joins him, and th
Sep 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
My ability to relate to the author got off to a poor start, wore thinner under his gendering of food, and finally broke down over his willingness to associate with and admiration for a taciturn domestic abuser. I might have got further if the writing seemed really fantastic, but it seemed just like other civilised-man-on-the-wild-passionate-continent books with the usual wife-ignoring, romanticising tropes.
Nov 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: wanna-be expats
Shelves: favorites
Makes you want to quit your crappy job, sell your pricey house and move to a pile of rocks in Spain. Reminds you of the importance and joy to be found in relationships with neighbors, and the lack of importance in sticking to a tight schedule. I gave this to my Mom soon after I read it, and she loved it as well.
The writing style is natural, conversational. Great book.
Ashley Lauren
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, spain
Man. I should have loved this book. When I pulled the off the shelf at Half Price Books I knew I had to have it. It was perfect for me. Not only was it a travel memoir, one of my great weaknesses, but it was a travel memoir about Spain. Add onto that a quirky story and I'm sold.

So what happened? Why am I not head over heels for this story? The writing was quite good, the descriptions were also nicely done. There is nothing glaringly obvious throughout the entire length.

The problem is that I just
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I live surrounded by lemon trees, none of them mine. In fact, everywhere I have lived, there has been at least one collection of lemons, be they Meyer, Eureka, Lisbon, or Sweet Italian. So this book title grabbed me quickly, as I may not drive over lemons but I certainly do walk over them.

Chris Stewart, early drummer of the rock band Genesis and an itinerant sheep shearer, decides impulsively to purchase a run down farm in Spain. El Valero is owned by a savvy farmer who really wants to move to t
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, travel
I love to travel and see new places and therefore I love reading travelogues and descriptions of new places ,cultures ,customs and people around the world. Stewart decides to buy an old sheep farm in a remote location in the Alpajurra Mountains in Southern Spain. He convinced his wife Ana to join him and the novel is a delightful description of how they start from scratch even without water and electricity to build a farm and a family 😁 simultaneously with a multitude of obstacles in the form of ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Chris Stewart, formerly of Genesis, relocates his family to Andalucia. They embrace a very peasant lifestyle, and seem to love it.

I loved reading about the farm - the seasons, the beauty, the locals, and the little customs of the locals like planting on saints days. I would have liked a lot more about Andalucia in general, beyond the farm.

If you've ever wished for a simpler, pastoral life, you would probably enjoy this a bit more than I did.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
It's unavoidable making the comparison between this book and Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence. Both are memoirs by ex-Pat Brits of their relocation to bucolic parts of Southern Europe, both to be found in my neighborhood book store almost side-by-side under Travel Essays. A blurb from the Daily Telegraph even says Stewart is being talked up as "the new Peter Mayle." Fortunately Stewart compared well--in fact I liked his book quite a bit more than Mayle's.

A lot of that is that I just plain liked
Robert Bovington
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: chris-stewart, spain
My wife bought this book about ten years ago having heard a review on Radio 2. She enjoyed reading it and so did I. More than that, it inspired us to move to Spain. I must admit, though, that we didnt entirely follow in Chris Stewart's footsteps - working a farm in the
Alpujarras sounded like much too much hard work so we relocated to the coast instead.
However, intrigued by Chris Stewart's book we began to explore the Alpujarras and during the last eight years have spent many enjoyable days in
Oct 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ingleses, novela
Para pasarlo bien como lector, a veces no es necesaria una gran novela... Este es un ejemplo. Narración sencilla, con carácter autobiográfico, divertida en unos momentos y tierna en otros. Se cierra el libro con una sonrisa en los labios, imaginando el aroma de la sierra.
Mairita (Marii grāmatplaukts)
3,5 zvaigznes. Ļoti daudz interesantas informācijas par spāņu zemnieku dzīvi Andalūzijā. Kriss stāsta kolorīti un ar humoru, nekautrīgi pasmejoties par sevi. Kopējās sajūtas ziņā tomēr Meila "Gads Provansā" man patika labāk. Vairāk:
Marnette Falley
I spent an evening at a farm in Spain and as I picked the grapes overhanding the patio I dreamed about buying it and pickling all those orchards of olives. No electricity. So I kind of identify with author Chris Stewart, who bought just such a farm, except way more remote and without running water or a road.

I completely enjoyed the story of the couples first years in Spain, during which they learned how to keep their farm alive, built friendships and construction know-how, and had a baby. My on
Oct 21, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up in the travel guide section at the library when I started planning my trip to Portugal. I was suprised to see a book like this in that section but I guess its not hefty enough for a memoir so there really isn't a proper home for it. I know understand why Cooking with Fernet Branca was made- these gringo moves to peasant territory books are so formulaic- this even has the requisite recipe for "poorman's potatoes"...... No real reason to read this, zero drama, zero suprises....
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For me, Chris Stewart’s Driving Over Lemons sets the standard by which all travel memoirs are judged. His passion for his adopted country and its people oozes from every page. Over a decade on from it first publication, it’s as crisp and fresh today as it’s ever been.
Claire Marshall
Aug 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great book really easy to read and very engaging and amiable narrator. One criticism possibly that Ana doesn't really come alive in the same way as other characters. Maybe she didn't want to be a big part of the story? But Domingo seems more rounded somehow.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a delightful account of an English couple who buys a primitive farm in rural Andalucia Spain. As Chris describes it, the setting is beautiful, but he also doesn't gloss over the difficulties of moving into a home with no electricity and no running water. The anecdotes sometimes jump back and forth in time, but that didn't bother me.
Chad Fairey
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-booklist
Was very happy to come across this delightful little book by Chris Stewart -- one-time drummer for Genesis (in the band's very, very early days) who threw it all in to become a sheep-shearer and, eventually, the owner of a remote farm in the Alpujarras region of Andalucia. While this technically belongs in the same genre as similar works by Peter Mayle, Frances Mayes and Tony Cohan, it strikes a very different pitch as it is remarkably humble, grounded and measured in its perception of local lif ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-or-memoir, spain
Stop me, if you've heard this one before. Couple tired of the rat-race, dreams of a more simpler lifestyle and seeks dream in another country. Andalucian Spain to be exact. Chris is seeking something in the mountains but compromises somewhat to obtain a run down farm at a great price. Ana isn't as enthralled but "whither thou goest….", I suppose. Thus starts their journey to adapt to the lifestyle and carve out a life in this remote area. Lots of hard work , a peach of a local who befriends them ...more
Isa Lot
Mar 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Es un libro muy peculiar, desde luego si no te gusta la naturaleza y el campo no lo leas. Se compone de un montón de anecdotas de una familia inglesa en la alpujarra granadina. Todo lo que tiene que pasar y aprender primero el solo como nuevo granjero y luego con su mujer y su hija.

Al principio me gustó mucho, después me aburrio bastante y posteriormente me volvió a enganchar cuando comenzo a hablar de experiencias con medicina natural, hierbas y botánica.
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
This was disappointing. I've had it on the radar for years but I really thought it would be a better read. It's quite a lightweight trot through one mans experience of moving to Andalucia. I just couldn't feel anything for the characters or indeed the entire experience. He has some lovely observations, particularly about his daughter and it is quite funny in an understated (my favourite type of humour) way, but I don't believe he manages to convey anything of depth.
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una pareja de ingleses deciden venderlo todo y venirse a vivir a la Alpujarra. Se compran el cortijo de El Valero y se dedican a arreglarlo. A pesar de parecer un tema tan anodino, el autor escribe tan bien que es una gloria leerlo. Cuenta mil historias de pastores y constructores, de ganaderos y de agricultores. Chris Stewart tiene talento y los libros se leen solos. En total tiene cinco escritos, a cual más divertido. Muy recomendable. Por aquí he comentado un par de ellos.
Costumbrista y amable, la novela de Stewart narra las peripecias de un esquilador de ovejas británico que compra un cortijo y se asienta en las Alpujarras granadinas junto a su esposa. Lo mejor de la novela son las descripciones de un entorno bello y duro por igual y lo atípico de la confrontación de culturas anglosajona y rural andaluza. El libro no tiene un hilo conductor fascinante, tan solo un recorrido vital interesante que, escrito de una manera afable te hace esbozar una sonrisa pero no a ...more
Laura Tenfingers
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, spain
This book was much better than I expected. I was worried I might find his commentary about the Spanish to be condescending and insulting. Happily that was not the case. There was a perfect balance of pointing out the seemingly bizarre and the seemingly amazing of a different culture without laying anything on too thick. I'm Spanish-born, half Spanish, half American, and have lived as an expat for the last 13.5 years in two different countries. I could relate to many of their experiences and it b ...more
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tas vienkārši bija tik vienkārši baudāms. 🤠
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
This book came highly recommended from a couple of friends and I have been meaning to read it for quite a while now, probably ever since I moved to Spain four and a half years ago. I found a copy in Spanish at a used book sale (1Euro!) so the matter was settled. I have to say that it was slow reading and not because I had any problem with the Spanish, it is just slow reading. He doesn't have to much to say about Spanish life as he is in the middle of nowhere and interacting with few people. The ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The title is intriguing for a start and immediately conjures up pictures of hot summer days and sleepy Spanish villages set against a backdrop of lemon groves. No doubt the author had the same romantic picture of a life in the sun when he and his wife moved to Spain. However, his account of farming during a harsh winter, of no running water or electricity paint an entirely different picture. I think it's the struggle of daily life and the interaction with the locals that make this book so endear ...more
May 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: spain, travel
Enjoyable if a bit standard in the "English/American family moves to Country, buys a farm house, experiences construction woes and gets to know the neighbors" genre. In this one, they actually farm and have livestock so there are some fairly gorey bits and a lot less rhapsodizing about the local cuisine (which you get in Provence/Tuscany books of this type). In all, I found it not super insightful or funny, but an interesting look at one family's experiences moving to southern Spain. There are t ...more
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
I did not expect much from a book by the former drummer of Genesis. Now I am embarrassed by me prejudice. He is funny, clever and talented and who knew he could shear sheep. His descriptions of the hills and country around Granada are beautiful and capture it perfectly.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Extra Virgin (Italy series, #1)
  • The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France
  • From Here, You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and Its Restaurant
  • Snowball Oranges: One Mallorcan Winter
  • Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past
  • Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Côte d'Azur and Italy's Costa Bella
  • The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian
  • The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca
  • On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town
  • Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman
  • Turn Left At The Trojan Horse: A Would-Be Hero's American Odyssey
  • Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life
  • Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia
  • Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France
  • Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea
  • I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany
  • Living in a Foreign Language: A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy
  • Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools: Tuck into a Slice of Andalucían Life (Old Fools, #1)
Christopher 'Chris' Stewart (born 1951), was the original drummer and a founding member of Genesis. He is now a farmer and an author. A classmate of Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel at Charterhouse School, Stewart joined them in a school band called The Garden Wall, and they later formed another band with schoolmates Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips, called Anon. This band eventually became Genesi ...more

Other books in the series

Driving Over Lemons Trilogy (4 books)
  • A Parrot in the Pepper Tree
  • The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society
  • Last Days of the Bus Club
“Alzò per un momento lo sguardo verso di noi, poi si produsse in quel gioco di prestigio che sin dalla notte dei tempi ha fatto sì che il genere umano prendesse in simpatia la capra, emettendo contemporaneamente un rutto e una scoreggia.” 2 likes
“There was no stopping us now. We had running water, a heater, a cooker and a road. We were fast becoming slaves again to all the things we had come to this benighted spot to flee.” 2 likes
More quotes…