I trust you are familiar with the famous books by Peter Mayle about restoring a ruin of a house and living in the Provence, and the ones set in Tuscany by Frances Mayes. The romance of it! The food! The wine!
Window in Tuscany, Italy
However, I’m not sure we all actually dream of doing that, because no matter how romantic it seems, the God of Stress and Disaster has lots of fun playing games as we toil away. Anyway, it is entertaining to read about it, don’t you think?
I’m always looking for books about living in foreign countries, and I thought I’d offer you a list of books I’ve read in the last few years. The following titles are all contemporary expat life tales, not travelogues or historical adventures. No, not all are about restoring derelict farm houses and growing your own olives. They’re listed in no particular order, with the titles linked to author web sites or other informational sites. When nothing else was available, I linked them to Amazon.
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull – France (Paris)
I loved this one for the culture shock elements: Casual, informal Aussie girl falls in love with Frenchman, moves to Paris and learns about how things are (not) done in the City of Light. Like, you know, you don’t run out to the corner boulangerie to buy a baguette while wearing your sweats. It’s not nice for the baker!
Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott – Turkey
Wanting a change from the rat race in clammy old England, two openly gay married guys take on the expat life in Turkey. A fun read.
The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – Morocco
Okay, this is one about restoring an old house, but not any old house. It’s an empty, derelict mansion inhabited by jinns (spirits) and full of mysteries. Restoring it is an adventure involving exorcism rituals and creepy people. Great story. Here a 5 minute video of the author speaking about his experiences.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost – Vanuatu (Island nation in S. Pacific)
Interesting title, but rather misleading. But hey, it made me buy the book, and I wasn’t sorry.
“The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish…” The author has a way with description, so you may want to keep an air-freshener handy.
Freeways to Flip-Flops by Sonia Marsh – Beliz
Have you ever thought of just packing up the spoiled teenagers and getting out of America to live a simpler, less materialistic life on a tropical island? Here’s the story of a suburban family doing just that. It’s a gutsy thing to do, and not without risks.
The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran – Italy
To get them away from their stressful Hollywood life, the author’s wife buys (without his knowing) a broken-down three-hundred-year-old farmhouse in Italy. He is not at all happy. But what do you know! He finds his Inner Italian and gets converted! The author is a writer/producer of various sitcoms, and you can tell in the writing. I could visualize this book straight into a sitcom.
Fountain in Seville, Spain
Dancing in the Fountain by Karen McCann – Spain
Expat life in the city of Seville: Karen and her husband decide moving to Spain and living an interesting expat life is more stimulating to the gray cells than sitting comfortably at home in America and snoozing through retirement waiting for the Grim Reaper. I so agree with her. Although she enjoys her siesta’s, Karen is wide awake as she revels in the fun of life in Spain.
Chickens, Mules, and Two Old Fools by Victoria Twead – Spain
British couple buys an old house in a tiny village in Spain, fix up the place, make friends, love their Spanish life.
Stealing Fatima’s Hand by Carolyn Theriault – Morocco
Not all is charm and romance when you have a working life in Morocco. I found this non-touristy, irreverent view of Morocco very interesting. Canadian Carolyn and her husband are teachers and now work in Iraq. No, they’re not restoring old houses.
Miss Expatria by Christine Cantera – Italy (Rome)
American Christine wants to live and work in Europe, gets on a plane to Rome and falls in love with Italian life. I enjoyed her enthusiasm in taking on all things Italian. Here’s an interview with Christine.
On Mexican Time by Tony Cohan.
This one has been around for a while. Tony Cohan is a novelist, his wife an artist. Escaping Los Angeles, they buy a house in San Miguel and discover the many pleasures of life in Mexico. Excellent writing.
Hot Sun, Cool Shadow by Angela Murrills – France
I just started reading this and it looks promising. The title tag is A Celebration of Slow Food and Authentic Living in Languedoc. Since I’ll be spending time in this part of Southern France this summer, and eating and drinking are high on my list of favorite things to do, I thought I’d check it out. Angela herself says she lives to eat and has generously offered recipes in the book.
Now, dear readers, please help me out here and add some of your fun reads in the comments. I would especially love to find expat books set in other parts of the world, say Africa, or Asia. Do you know any?