Over the past few years, I have enjoyed reading the memoirs of British expatriates that have chosen to live in other countries. Some moved for lucrative means and others were retiring to warmer climates. In several cases, the author-wives were following their husbands who worked for the British government as contractors in fields such as engineering as they built structural systems for the Commonwealth.
My first acquaintance through Twitter was with the prolific writer, Valerie Poore. She now lives in the Netherlands and has written several books of her life on a boat. She is an English professor who decided to live on a vessel in Rotterdam. Some of her works such as Watery Ways is from her Ways series. Then there is Faring to France on a Shoe which covers a boat journey to other countries with her mate, Koos. Before moving into the world of the Dutch, she lived in South Africa and her memoirs from there are both colorful and amusing. She describes the beautiful countryside and everyday life in works such as African Ways and her latest book from the SA days is Beneath A Copper Sky which is quite riveting.
From that point on, Val began to recommend books for me that have been written by her other expat writer-friends. So I moved on into the works of Lally Brown. Her husband worked as a British engineer, and she always found work on the Caribbean Islands to contribute to the community. There are several laugh-out-loud moments as she writes about everyday life in High & Dry in the BVI, Tree Frogs, Don’t Drop the Dolphin along with other works. At one point, she even lived on the island of St. Helena where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his last days in exile. She did in-depth research of those times and wrote a grand tale of his life while there in The Countess, Napoleon and St. Helena.
I was later led to Victoria Twead’s Two Old Fools six-book series where she and her husband Joe leave the UK and move to Spain. While reading of their daily happenings one feels as if he or she is sitting right there with them on their patio watching the Spanish villagers. They even leave their El Hoyo abode for a year to teach in Bahrain. It is hilarious as they attempt to teach the wealthy, entitled Arabian middle schoolers. After returning to Spain and spending several more years in El Hoyo, they move to Australia to be closer to their daughter and her growing family. The adventures continue as they learn to maneuver the new terrain of Aus, as they call it, and once again look for a new home.
Then, Beth Haslam wrote a five-book series called Fat Dogs and French Estates where she and her husband leave the UK and head for the South of France. We see them in their car going through the Euro-Tunnel and getting out on the French side. It made me pull out my Atlas (book) and follow them as they drove to the south of France. They visit several properties and meet all types of people as they look for their new home. After many disappointments, they find a place that looks fine until all of the sellers’ furniture has been removed from the house. They stand aghast when they realize how much work needs to be done for the place to be truly habitable; but they’ve already signed on the dotted line! Reading the series is quite like being a family member as Beth takes us through each everyday occurrence. This year, she released Fats Dogs and Welsh Estates as a prequel which shares her rich childhood in Wales and the events that shaped her life.
I was also introduced to Susie Kelly, who also lives in the south of France. In The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette, we see Susie and her husband bike up to the Versailles area as she gives an in-depth history of the last days and movements of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before they met their fate at the guillotine. She has a great sense of humor as she informs yet gives comic relief along the way. In her work Safari Ants, Baggy Pants and Elephants: A Kenyan Odyssey, she revisits the African nation of Kenya 40 years later where she spent several childhood years. Her descriptive words made me feel as if I was right there with them while on safari!
Lastly, I just finished Karen Telling’s first book of a two-book series called Another Day in Paradise. When she and her husband Nick rode with their car through the Euro Tunnel, this time I was familiar with the process. They too drive through the French countryside, but this couple is on their way to Portugal! Once there, they rent a few properties to see if this is right for them and after deciding a resounding yes, they buy a small fixer upper. They thought that they were ready to retire, but instead Karen finds work as a real estate agent, and Nick starts a small moving service. The adventures continue to flourish as they thrive in this new land where again business ventures move as slow as molasses.
All of the books are available on Amazon, and it is a great way to go knee-deep into countries and places that I will probably not visit in person. Several of these women writers are accompanying their mates who are on higher missions, but they chose to pick up their pens and share their daily experiences. They: battle insects and varmints of all types; gain and lose precious pets; or deal with archaic bureaucratic systems while trying to see doctors, get drivers’ licenses or obtain other needed permits while living as foreigners and expats. Mostly, they have to try to learn another language and a new culture as they make lifetime friends along the way. But most agree that a warmer, sunnier climate is worth it all!
April 8, 2023