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.
AuthorGeorge 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.
I rarely mix business with blogging. I prefer to keep my irreverent witterings personal. But sometimes something comes my way I just can’t let pass. Just recently, Springtime Books published a breast cancer diary called Do you still have cleavage with just one breast? by Sue Lawrence, a Canadian now living in the Netherlands. It’s gritty, brave, straight-talking and inspirational. Many of us have been or will be affected by the evil that is the big C. Sue met it head on. The title says it all.
Here’s the blurb:
On honeymoon and two months pregnant, Sue discovers a lump in her breast. This is her raw, unpolished diary as she navigates the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Brutally honest, she faces the overwhelming terror of the road ahead – for herself and her unborn daughter.
Her candid diary entries reflect the impact the disease has on her marriage and impending motherhood. It ends with Tips for Cancer Warriors – signposts and guidelines for those following in her footsteps.
This remarkable and compelling memoir will empower others to feel whatever they need to feel as they battle this disease – it’s their cancer.
The book contains so many memorable quotes. Here’s just a few:
Mastectomy bras resemble slingshots in white or beige polyester… they bring out the grandmother in you.
I find the cancer story slips out – like I’m an oozing, emotional slut wanting to share my pain with everyone.
Chemotherapy smells of rubber bands and it still sticks at the back of my nose. I want to retch. My hair fell out this morning… my bowels feel like they’re falling out of my ass.
Mark moments that are important to you. Go on a trip. Light candles. Write a diary. Stay in bed and cry. Ever the drama queen, I sent a photo of my cancerous breast down the Athabasca Falls in Canada and then had a Nipple Party complete with a documentary and book… Find your joy. And do it every day.
Sue’s incredible story is available in print and e-book at the usual places. Here’s the link to Amazon.
To continue my amateurish witterings on writing a memoir, Displaced Nation asked me:
Is it easier to turn expat stories or travel adventures into a memoir or a novel, and how does one decide?
Here’s the trick. Just because a memoir can’t be a novel, it doesn’t mean it can’t be written as if it were. The greatest challenge is to give memoir a plot that readers will find convincing and engaging enough to make them turn the page.
For me, that meant very little fat. One of the first tips I picked up from my publisher was to dump storylines and characters that weren’t key to the main event or didn’t add interesting flavour. I tackled this by creating a story board, much like they do in the movies. This meant I could identify gaps in the narrative, ensure continuity and shoot down the flights of fancy.