x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Sacred Sierra: A Year on a Spanish Mountain

Book review It seems we can never have enough books about writers who move to the countryside, find it difficult and quirky, and then write about their experiences.

It seems we can never have enough books about writers who move to the countryside, find it difficult and quirky, and then write about their experiences. It is curious that there is not a similar genre of country types moving in the opposite direction to cities and having trouble with taxi drivers and boorish barmen. Like a thriller, these back-to-the-roots books are formulaic: we can expect the arrival of a local farmer, first hostile, later best friend, who becomes a guide to the local customs; the realisation that country life is hard - that is why everyone pushed off to the cities years ago; strange neighbours, including witches, environmentalists and downright nutters, even artists; and the introduction of different foods, mushrooms and truffles, acorn bread and strange liqueurs. All the usual suspects are here and more, but Webster and his wife are such an entertaining and spirited pair that you cannot help but warm to them. As the farming year moves on - this is about the land, not the house, one refreshing change to the formula - you begin to hope the madness of trying to eke a living from mountainside almond trees, brambles and bees will not ruin their relationship. He brings a literary touch to the adventure, too, quoting widely from Ibn al-Awam's Book of Agriculture, first published in the 12th century, as well as introducing -every chapter with a folk tale. Sacred Sierra may be a touch too intelligent for the average book buyer, but I'd take this any time over the whimsical Driving Over Lemons. You should buy this book, if only so that Webster can afford to plant more trees on his bucolic mountainside.

Rupert Wright is the author of Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water, published by Harvil Secker rwright@thenational.ae