Another Englishman goes to another near-Mediterranean village and becomes besotted by the place in a way that may seem rather familiar already.
Like Peter Mayle, Lambert (Triad, 1991; Vendetta, 1990) had grown tired of his job as a globetrotting journalist and pined for a rustic setting where he could sit down and write that novel that was just itching to escape from his fingertips into the typewriter. So, like Mayle, Lambert and his wife bought a tumbledown home with a pool outside an insular but food-and-gossip-rich little village by the coast—only here the coast is Spain's Costa Blanca. The construction work that the house requires comes slowly and is endlessly delayed, but jasmine and rosemary fill the air outside their windows—so who can complain? The Lamberts have amusing miscommunications with quirky locals and comic brushes with the authorities, but each ends with a splash of sunshine and a fruity bonbon. They suffer the importunings of English `friends` who just happen to be in the neighborhood. They are taken under the wing of neighboring, self-appointed guardians who get them into harmless fixes. They experience benign (if startling) surprises—bats come to sip from the pool at night, a snowstorm results in some melodramatics, fires threaten but claim no victims during the dry season—but then there are the Bermuda buttercups that carpet the earth under the fruit trees. Lambert’s story even ends with a celebration at Christmastime, with work on the house almost completed, all wrapped up in an atmosphere of well-being. If this all sounds too familiar, it is. Both Lambert and Mayle write with a breezy informality, but whereas Mayle (the relaxed self-deprecating sensualist) seemed to have mild adventures fall in his lap, Lambert hasn't shaken his background in journalism: he's out there digging for stories in serendipity. Too often it feels like hard work.
A twice-told tale that doesn't claim anything of its own in the retelling.