What did you achieve during Lockdown? Most of us spent the year or so prevaricating and putting
off useful projects, while we ate vast quantities of banana bread and binged on Netflix. Not so
Richard Townsend, the author of this months first book review, who took the opportunity to weave together nearly half a century of observations gathered as an Englishman who married into an eccentric family in a left-behind corner of Spain and
create his first novel, Spanish Practices published by Chiselbury Publishing ( http://www.chiselbury.co.uk ) in November 2022.
The book is a kind of what we would describe in an English setting as an ‘aga drama’ We meet a
large number of the family, including Rico’s (as Richard is called) in laws and wider circle of cousins,
friends, and neighbours. We follow the fortunes and misfortunes of the family winery, plus the
romantic and personal histories of the large cast of characters. Initially an outsider, Rico is drawn
ever deeper into the family mire, as well as facing with his wife, Marina, his own fraught
relationships with neighbours, local planning laws and the busy body ‘Authorities’
The story of Richard’s house purchase and ongoing renovations, with the obstructions, costs and
frustrations in abundance, is told with humour. Recently I was watching ‘Cheap European Homes’
where an Irish TV crew take potential buyers around tumble down properties in Spain, Portugal and
France, with a view to moving there, that and the contents of this novel would make me wary of
attempting to deal with planning applications, builders and potential neighbourly disputes for sure!
I was also by Richard’s comments about the Spanish and walking for
pleasure, when he tries to hike with his English visitor, about a walking holiday in Spain I went on
many years ago. Our hosts were Geordies who had relocated to Spain and set up a walking and
cookery holiday business, which is a story in itself. For example, they’d learned Spanish, but the
wrong Spanish for their new home area. Everyone thought they were crazy turning a ruin into an
hotel in the mountains. They told us the locals couldn’t get their heads around hiking, ‘but why
when you can drive?!’ However with a steady stream of foreign tourists hiking, doing photography
courses and learning to cook authentic and locally sourced Spanish food, the place boomed.
This is English author Richard Townsend’s debut novel. He is a linguist and historian by training, who ended up as a self-employed adviser to private companies, on their financial and other affairs. He lives with his Spanish wife and their family, dividing their time between London and Spain.
This book gives a great insight into the social history of Spain during periods of immense change, like
joining the European union, the economic boom and bust, Brexit and even the start of Covid. The
characters are wonderfully brought to life on the page. I expect many an Irish person will appreciate
the difficulties of dealing with the ‘mammy’ who likes to be the first with the news, to manage that
news where it relates to her own family, and feels her family are superior in every way obviously!
Whilst there’s no major excitements or dramatic events, this is an excellent introduction to Spanish
culture and cuisine from a sympathetic observer.
Reviewed by Georgina Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the others thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.