I always love reading Susie Kelly Books and I started reading Swallows and Robins on a ferry to Dover from Calais. I had a stinking cold and was feeling sorry for myself. By chapter 2 I had laughed out loud several times – enough to attract the attention of those round me.
This is Susie Kelly’s latest book and a departure from her usual travelogues set in France. The story of her move to France from the UK and her efforts to build and run two gites in a rural village is immensely entertaining. Kelly’s problems with the builders she employs to get the gites ready are comical but to many all too easily recognisable – consisting variously of charlatans, the inept, lazy and louche!
Eventually the gites are ready and the day arrives for the first guests – an experience which does not give any indication of the mayhem and adventures that will follow.
Thereafter the reader is introduced to a stream of guests ranging from those who are normal happy families and couples there to enjoy the tranquillity of a sojourn in rural France – to the downright deranged. From the “artist” who trashes the place to the lads who want to see how hot they can get the wood stove and almost burn the house down – being a gite owner is not quite the relaxing way to earn a living that Kelly anticipated or hoped for. There are offensive and weird people of various levels and nationalities and they are not confined to guests! We meet some of Kelly’s friends including the magnificent Ivy, Kelly’s “cleaner”, an interesting character of advanced years who loves to appear in fancy dress and is partial to wine and dramatic outbursts.
When I got to the part in the book about guests Dick and Alice (and I shan’t spoil it for you by telling you more other than Alice is a lady of a certain age who knows her mind – and her miniskirts) I actually snorted with laughter much to the amusement of a family sitting near me on the ferry who wanted to know what I was reading. They will possibly be the first purchasers of Kelly’s new book since I promised to send them a link when the book was published (you can buy it by clicking on the link below!).
Like the best stories, from Shakespeare to Dickens, this book has an element of fun and pathos. I defy anyone not to be moved by Kelly’s description of her camping trip with her beloved dog. On receiving a booking from Americans who need more room, she gives up her house as well as the gites and moves into a tent with the dog. The dog is unwell and Kelly relishes some quality time with him. She describes how she and the dog sleep side by side “spine to spine” and when the time comes, her devastation at the loss of this loyal friend is a real tear jerker (fortunately I wasn’t on the ferry for this bit).
Kelly is a marvellous story teller, her descriptions help you to “know” the guests and see the action as if you were there. She is herself fairly bonkers but in the nicest possible way and clearly goes out of her way to make her guests feel welcome and at home. This is not always easy as some of the guests are obnoxious and deserve far less than she gives – but it does make for great reading!
Laugh out loud funny and a must read for anyone dreaming of the good life running gites in France.
A delightful book, Susie writes with effortless wit and a keen understanding of her fellow humans!
The Good Life France awards Swallows and Robins – The Guests In My Garden a 5 Star Rating.