Día de Andalucía
And … Tosca’s gotcha day. Or got us day. Or whatever.
It’s a year since the pathetic underweight timid bitch followed Partner and Snowy home.
I swear she has doubled in size. Naughty fat girl. We put it down to her being underfed before, and maybe being malnourished when she was pregnant. But hell, she was alive, and not beaten around the head, * insert all manner of graphic tortures* and is now a happy friendly dog. Like Snowy, she is also a good guard dog.
She happens to be a Tea Leaf too. Tosca Tea Leaf. Here are the latest in toeless socks. Thanks Tosc.
Podencos = affection, guarding, sofa/bed loving. Crazy dogs but eminently lovable. Assuming you like dogs.
Meanwhile, back at the finca, I got a huge harvest of peas. OK, maybe not so huge. The acelga threatens to overtake the main veg plot. Has now been moved. Winter jasmine is flowering. As are nasturtiums.
And, it rained. What does one do when it rains in Spain? Read.
I read a short story set partly in Ecuador. When I embarked on my round the world trip, Latin America was on the return leg after Australasia. Trouble was I got distracted and married in Sydney so Latin America never happened.
When I was a lass my parents hired Saturday boys to work on their market stall. One of them won a Churchill Fellowship for travelling. He came from a local council estate and went to South America, sending me postcards from his travels. I so wanted to go there.
Later, he became a newspaper editor. His older brother, also a Saturday boy, became a High Court judge. I wonder if kids from rough council estates can do the same today?
But back to Ecuador. Can’t remember if Ian sent me a postcard from there, I only remember Machu Pichu. And now I speak enough Spanish I want to go to South America even more. In the meantime, vicarious book travelling.
First, here’s Roger’s travels:
100% Love Guaranteed
With a title like that, the reader might be forgiven for expecting a Mills and Boone drama, although with a slightly exotic touch as it is set in Ecuador. In fact, the first part of the book is redolent of predictable romances where couples meet, are attracted, fall out, make up, rinse and repeat. It was like reading about a pair of teenagers except he’s 30 ish and a software engineer, and she’s a 22-year-old medical student.
Luckily the story picks up when Keays ends up being arrested because his visa had expired (duh), and he ends up in an Ecuadorian gaol, which he seems to manage with amazing aplomb.
On his release, he resumes his relationship with his girlfriend, but on the expiry of his new visa, leaves the country and hits the road again, simultaneously maintaining internet contact with the ex (?) girlfriend, and having sex with other women.
Keays paints an interesting picture of himself, whether intentional or not. He comes across as arrogant, selfish, egotistical, and a womaniser who hits on women younger than himself for casual sex. He seems like a typical commitment phobe and/or someone pursuing greener grass. His personal introspection, however, is well written and adds depth to what could have become a somewhat vapid and bland book about his sexual conquests and hedonistic travel adventures.
Get past the lengthy teenage-type section at the beginning and it’s a story worth reading. I’ll admit the travel aspect drew me more than the love element, but the combination of the two made it a powerful story. And for those of us who travelled in pre-internet days, it’s interesting to read how much things have changed. Text messages, Facebook, and, Keays works on the Internet while travelling. A far cry from me ringing home from the central exchange in Bombay (as was) and my postcards from Nepal never arriving at their destination. My promised Indian job (charity work with free board/accommodation) didn’t pan out, but there was lots of work in Sydney. Keays doesn’t even have to leave his hotel room for work if it has wifi.
The book raises some interesting moral issues about travelling and relationships: casual sex, sex without contraception, getting involved with people from different countries and different cultures, expectations, going back home – home doesn’t change – the traveller has changed, are white western men the golden prize for latinas (or other non-white women) – the cash cow to be milked until the gold has run dry? To what extent can we remain friends with people we met/had sex with on our travels? And for how long?
Keays uses Spanish well throughout the book, although flits between translating some words, eg barrio, but not others eg muy bien. Given there is a glossary at the beginning, it seemed an odd mix. And I’m not entirely sure the average non-Spanish speaking reader couldn’t work out documentos, gringo, discoteca, passaporte, for example. It’s never easy to decide how to use foreign languages in books but I’m not a fan of translations in brackets after the word/s. It detracts from the flow too much. Given he doesn’t use full conversations in Spanish, I thought the glossary on its own without in-text translations was fine.
The structure of the book is clearly defined and well thought through in three distinct sections: the initial stage of the romance and its development; Keays’ time in gaol, subsequent release, and the adjustment of the relationship as the pair finds a balance between work, studies and love; and finally, leaving Equador and the girlfriend for more adventures and sex with other women, culminating in a reunion in Barcelona. Chapter titles are good, showing thought and imagination, acting as an enticement for each particular chapter. Descriptive passages are not overly long, but evocative of stunning scenery and run-down squalor, depending on the location. The frustrations involved with dealing with slow Spanish-speaking bureaucracy are well expressed.
And I loved the map. Maps are a must-have for travel books.
I was surprised to see it had four beta readers and an editor as I thought it read like a self-edited book with some very basic errors (including a couple in the glossary), and relatively weak initial chapters of Part 1. Do these spoil the story? No, just let it down. What should be an easy four star book, ends up as three and a half.
I really must write my own travel/love story on the other side of the world!
And next, a slightly different story:
Seduction Squad: Captured
This was a great read. What I liked about it was the gradual developing relationship between the two main characters, the clever way their separate back stories was told, and their surprisingly mutual goal.
It reminded me of a line in the James Bond film, Casino Royale, where Vesper Lynd says to Bond that MI6 recruits maladjusted young men because they kill efficiently.
The female character is a top Mata Hari, originally from Ecuador, and the male one grew up in Zimbabwe during the Mugabe period. But both had a sad childhood.
There are some nice descriptions of Quito, the city and local environment, a bus journey, and, all in all, it’s a well rounded novella. And, because it’s erotica, there is some sex. It was the story that did it for me though. Cracking female seductress and assassin character, and well worth an easy five stars.
And no errors! What a pleasure to read a story without punctuation and spelling mistakes. Seriously.
Both good in their own ways and recommended.