I often get asked to review books. I usually politely decline. But sometimes something grabs my attention and this is one such time. A great title helps and this is a great title – Twelve Camels For Your Wife: An Englishman’s Lifelong Love Affair With Turkey. This is what I thought.
Author George Dearsley isn’t the first Brit to fall for Turkey and he certainly won’t be the last. But his account of a longstanding love affair with the country is a real delight – an astute, beautifully-penned story of an Englishman abroad. What starts as a madcap road trip to Japan in a royal blue Bedford van, twists and turns, anecdote by anecdote, into an entertaining and touching tale of a courtship with the land he now calls home. It made me feel so nostalgic for my own times past. There are some very funny and well-observed scenes about things that many expats will instantly relate to: the unfathomable bureaucracy, the language mishaps, the surprising customs. And there are some wonderful turns of phrases (‘We came, we saw, we conkered. The area was awash with chestnut trees.’). But it’s his depiction of the Turkish people, the friendships he makes along the way and ultimately his affection for a small village 40km northeast of Selçuk (‘There were many more horses and donkeys than cars’) that tugs at the heartstrings. Funny, insightful and poignant.