People are already making comparisons between A Year in Provence and Manana, Manana. But, at the risk of committing travel writing heresy, some readers may like Manana better. It's often funnier, grittier and more textured than Mayle's best-selling book.

Scottish sheep farmers Ellie and Peter Kerr decide to risk their financial future on a citrus orchard in Mallorca, a beautiful resort island off the coast of Spain. Peter Kerr paints a precise and compelling portrait of his adopted home, from the postman's morning cognac to the row of olive trees on the hillside, to the family fishing boats dwarfed by the yachts of affluent expats. With a few judiciously chosen details, he captures the Mallorcan landscape and character. Kerr's reports on the specialties of Mallorcan cuisine will make your mouth water. But his greatest achievement may be his ability to convey the quirks and nobility of his neighbors. A hilarious scene involves a neighbor dubbed "Se–ora Breadteeth." She shows up at the Kerr's farm one day with her niece and tries to get the Kerrs to hire the girl as a housemaid. She also offers them her sturdy nephews as farm hands. The Kerrs have some trouble convincing Breadteeth that they are not wealthy just because they are foreign, that they are used to doing their own farm work, and that they can't afford to do it any other way. At last, Breadteeth sighs with comprehension and says, "So you're really just peasants, too?"

It's the fact that the Kerrs do have to make their own living off the land that truly connects them to the Mallorcan community. They experience the same risks and fears as their neighbors, which takes them deeper into rural Spain than most travel writers and rich vacationers will ever go.

 

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