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Expats: Four Seasons in Spain

Posted by Dreamer

The story of one expat’s life in Madrid during the 1980’s, Expats: Four Seasons in Spain paints the picture of a country that simultaneously no longer exists and yet still lives, and an expat experience that is at once vibrant and stale, but intriguing nonetheless.

Fiction is a funny genre. Like all things, fiction has the power to both attract and repel – the same story, the same text, can win adepts or enemies. However, I didn’t expect that both reactions could happen to the same reader, namely me.

When I first read Expats: Four Seasons in Spain, I found the book to be rather trivial and not at all amusing, like a Peter Mayle book gone terribly wrong, with characters that rang hollow even though the action unfolded amongst the familiar backdrop of Madrid – although a Madrid of a few years past. I couldn’t help but look for glimpses of my beloved city between the pages because I couldn’t seem to stand the expat gatherings of the book’s characters.

“Is expat life always so trivial and without meaning?” I asked myself. But what did I expect? Even Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises devotes ample space to tedious expat gatherings and I do love that book. So was my antipathy more of a temporal crisis of conscience at a certain type of expat experience as I was at that time busy searching for meaning in my own?

Then something weird happened. Months after the book fell into my hands and promptly forgetting about it, I spied it on my bookshelf and pulled it down one unremarkable day. Against all odds, I soon found a depth to the book that I hadn’t appreciated at first glance. The prose seemed fresher and more insightful, more relevant and amusing.

Perhaps the book grew on me a little, or perhaps I began to grow more comfortable with the idea of a more light-hearted expat experience that did not quite mirror mine. That’s the power of fiction though: even while getting caught up in – and even maybe carried away by – the worlds of others, it’s hard not to reflect on your own.

Expats: Four Seasons in Spain by Gerald Hough. 2007. 194 pages. Buy the book in Europe or buy the book in North America.


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The story of one expat’s life in Madrid during the 1980’s, Expats: Four Seasons in Spain paints the picture of a country that simultaneously no longer exists and yet still lives, and an expat experience that is at once vibrant and stale, but intriguing nonetheless.

Expats: Four Seasons in Spain

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