A COTTAGE IN PORTUGAL by Richard Hewitt

A COTTAGE IN PORTUGAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another American-couple-moves-to-European-village-and-renovates-a-house book. Hewitt, a builder, jack-of-all-trades, and writer-type, and his wife, Barbara, an artist whose overcute drawings adorn the chapter openings, moved from rural Massachusetts to Portugal with the plan of earning their keep by buying and renovating an old house. Naturally, they are foiled at nearly every turn, encountering the usual combination of rustic hostility, inefficiency, benightedness, charm, warmth, and plain old poverty-stricken stupidity. The house is in Sintra, a small, remote resort city surrounded by fairy tale forests and populated by wily, short unindustrious natives and super-tanned, tall, unindustrious vacationers. Ultimately, of course, the house gets bought and hooked up to water; the renovations get done; the house gets sold; and the book gets written. Unfortunately, Hewitt's account of life in and around Sintra actually conveys little of the true character of either the distinctive natural landscape or the human look and sound. Although Hewitt uses the Peter Mayle model for his own book, his touch is inexpert, and he lacks both a real sense of humor and a knack for storytelling. Among other procedural problems, he inflates his own persona more than an author should, in effect laughing at his own, and his wife's, jokes--always a no-no. Of the genuinely funny bits (of which there mercifully are one or two), there is the time when Antonio, a building crew member, fails to show up for work because his ""mother was visiting from Switzerland."" Hewitt is given the translation, ""Antonio was drinking kirsch."" This has a superficial, describe-every-cup-of-coffee-and-glass-of-wine feel that offers little inspiration to prospective Portugal dwellers or dreamers.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1996
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster