Thursday, August 23, 2007

Piercefield House

I was watching a programme, as I seem to spend a fair proportion of my time doing, and that programme happened to be Nicholas Crane's Great British Journeys. He was following the guidebook written in 1770 by the Reverend William Gilpin called Observations on the River Wye. This tourist guide is no stranger to me as elements of it formed large areas of focus in my Master's dissertation as William Wordsworth was one of the many who was believed to have followed the guide.

History lesson over. One of the most interesting parts of this programme, other than the fact that Crane was doing the journey in a canoe, was the when they came across an old mansion called Piercefield House. What struck me was how astoundingly wonderful this ruin of a mansion in the middle of the Wye Forest actually looked. Usually I would get on my high horse and start declaring that the government needed to start investing more into our architectural heritage, alas, this time, I didn't.

I found myself wondering why anyone would want to disturb this sleeping mansion and attempt to remove from its state of sullen slumber. I for one would not want to restore this but rather admire it in its current form eternally, surrounded only by grazing sheep and cattle. Then again, I am someone that loves rusty old trawlers in a harbour or a load of driftwood on the beach... if only I could afford to be a beachcomber.

The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society by Chris Stewart

Cover image ©  Sort of Books.
Having read both Driving over Lemons and A Parrot in the Pepper Tree, and thoroughly enjoying both, it makes perfect sense that I should immerse myself in the third book in this series.

The book itself takes a slightly different approach the previous two. Whereas they followed a very obvious linear narrative, Almond Blossom tends to skip around in time.

We start off joining Chris in the present time before going back in time for an excursion to Morrocco that Chris had taken prior to the birth of his child. When we return the present we are left with much musing on the future.

The focus of the book is less concentrated on just the farm and more on people and events that have held some bearing on the writer's existence in Spain. I think as a result you would need to have read the first two books in order to fully understand the setting and all its idiosyncracies.

There is a sense that this will be the last time we hear from El Valero, Stewart's farm, as this book seems to bring about a firm sense of closure to his family's adventure in Spain.

This book is well worth a read for those who have followed the story so far, but for an occasional reader, picking up a book in this series for the first time, its lack of linear narrative may be off-putting.
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