As you all know, I love travel memoir books. And I love discovering them by local authors. You may remember that, back in August 2019, I reviewed A Kiss Behind The Castanets by Jean Roberts, a wonderful memoir detailing Jean’s rather, erm… interesting journey to becoming a homeowner in Spain. I knew there would be a sequel and I’ve been excited to read it ever since finishing the first one. And now, here it is!
***AD: This post features press samples but all thoughts are my own***
“With their life in Spain established, Jean and Adrian look forward to an idyllic retirement. But when Mother Nature throws up formidable fires, floods, and flu, their dreams, along with much of their house, are shattered.
Will muddy but wildly exciting 4×4 events, glorious scenery, tipsy Spanish lessons, and cowboy shoot-outs tempt them to stay, or will family tragedies and countryside burglaries send them back to the UK?
Life Beyond the Castanets is the second instalment of Jean Roberts’s lighthearted and uplifting tale in her Moving to Spain series.
Perfect for fans of Victoria Twead, Chris Stewart, and Alan Parks.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
I raved about A Kiss Behind The Castanets as it was such a well-written and engaging book. As someone who wants to live in Spain I found it fascinating, and as well as being an enjoyable read it also highlighted many issues that I may face if I eventually buy a property in the country.
Life Beyond The Castanets has a different slant – Jean and her husband Adrian are all settled in now. The difficult part of making that step to a foreign country has happened, and they’re now ready to live their combination Spanish and British lives to the full. Not without encountering even more issues though, of course! This book focuses more on their adventures across Spain (and other countries), with chapters giving an insight into their lives both in Andalucía and back in the UK. Like with the first book, I loved it. Jean has such an easy-going writing style, and I love the way she injects humour into her words. Reading her books is truly like chatting with a friend.
Although I learnt so much about buying property in Spain from the first book, I felt I learnt more in the second based on the variety of topics discussed. We see some more interesting examples of household issues and Spanish “solutions”, but this time it goes beyond that. One chapter, for example, delves deep into the history of Franco’s dictatorship and the Spanish Civil War, using conversations with someone to illustrate how horrific the time was for the Spanish. Another chapter explores the Remembrance parades and ceremonies as experienced in Gibraltar, and the comparisons between there and the UK.
Some of my favourite chapters were actually set on a road trip going all the way from Jean’s home in the UK to her house in Acerico. We’re taken to some wonderful locations in this part, from stunning mountain scenery to cowboy scenes in Europe’s only desert. I found these chapters inspiring, and they added a good few places to my ever-expanding travel bucket list!
Like with A Kiss Behind The Castanets, this second instalment also has a recipe section at the back. Some of them are mouthwatering, and I can’t wait to try them. I really want to make gazpacho, and I also have my eye on one mimicking tostada con tomate. I’m a big fan of travel memoir books that include extras like this – it adds some extra culture to the reading experience.
The great thing about Jean’s books is that she doesn’t just narrate situations – she ponders over them, giving meaning and reflection. She takes something away from every moment, which inevitably the reader does too. Chapters are short and simple to read but every single one is meaningful, and I love that. One in particular really stood out – the chapter where Jean tries on clothes in a shop. A simple and mundane activity, yet the effect the experience had on her made it so memorable. I read the whole thing over two days, but I think Life Beyond The Castanets would work well as a book read in small doses, too – a couple of chapters here and there where you can reflect on them afterwards.
I had a feeling that I’d really enjoy Life Beyond The Castanets, and I was right. It’s another interesting, funny, and fascinating travel memoir that really gives you an insight into Jean’s experiences. Some situations are hilarious, and others poignant, but each one is entertaining in its own way, and you’ll honestly feel like you know Jean personally by the end of it.
I’d recommend reading a Kiss Behind The Castanets first as this really lays the foundations for this book. However, if you like to read things out of order (a habit of mine!), then this works as a standalone as well. Definitely a must-read if you love Spanish culture and travelling, and a perfect way to indulge in a foreign country during the pandemic.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Life Beyond The Castanets then you can do so here:
“Jean Roberts is a retired social worker and a cautiously negative optimist. She is married with two grown-up children and a small tribe of grandchildren. She spends her time between her home in Essex and her happy place in Spain.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
Do you read a lot of memoirs? If so, what are your favourite travel memoir books? Share below, and don’t forget to like and pin if you enjoyed this review! If you like the sound of this then you may also like the following travel memoirs: