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Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía
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Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía

(Driving Over Lemons Trilogy #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  12,374 ratings  ·  746 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.
...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by Sort of Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  12,374 ratings  ·  746 reviews


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Andrea
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
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Zanna
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.
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
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Kammy
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
...more
GoldGato
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
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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
...more
Robert Bovington
Feb 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spain, chris-stewart
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 didn´t 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
...more
Jaanaki
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
Chris
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
Craig
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.
Cynda
I read this book to satisfy a biography and Earth day/month challenge. I became interested in this book because my pre-Modern Iberian ancestors very probably came from this area. And they were likely to have been farmers and farm workers.

Chris Stewart and his wife Ana leave England to go to Andalucia to live their dreams as farmers in the mountains of Spain.

At first I had a challenging go of the book. About 60 pages in, I tossed it to the floor. My Problem: Chris had gone to Spain without us w
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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
...more
Dalia
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....
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.
Yigal Zur
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
great english humor even in hard times when trying to settle down in Spain. fun read
Melanie
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
Caroline
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.
Susan Phillips
I read this before I hiked in Andalusia. (Are you seeing a theme here?) So glad I did. Ever dreamed of living in the middle of olive and lemon groves? What if the house had no electricity or running water? (I love books like this!)
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
Nicky
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hiking-outdoor
Great story, although not as funny as advertised in my opinion.
Leftbanker
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
Nikki
Mar 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
What do his neighbours, many of whom figure as prominent characters in the books, think of Stewart's writings? “Like most people I have my local enemies. I wouldn't be human if I didn’t. They think I’ve denigrated them, treated them like simpletons, which I deny. I did pull my punches rather. One person came in for a real drubbing.
(Author interview with Leah Hyslop)

My problem with the book is exactly this. He DOES denigrate and treat many of his neighbours like simpletons. It left a sour taste i
...more
Karen
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
Phair
Oct 04, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travelogue
Glad I read this rather than having to live it. Andalucia as depicted here seems like a dirty, dusty, fly & scorpion, thorn & bramble filled area with just some scrub brush and patches of trees. Definitely not my idea of an idyllic life. Author's wife never had much of a presence in this adventure but there were a few interesting neighbors & ex-pats who drifted in & out. ...more
Jennifer B.
Feb 29, 2016 rated it liked it
This was entertaining, as I am a foreigner living in Spain. This didn't make me appreciate living in Spain any more, as the "adventure" in this book pretty much sounds like Hell on Earth with a cast of characters to match. Makes me glad that Spain has finally moved into the 21st century, more or less, anyway.
Elisabeth
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.
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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

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Bryan Washington, the acclaimed author of 2019’s short story collection Lot, has returned with his debut novel, Memorial. The story follows...
14 likes · 3 comments
“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
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