09 July, 2006

Carvoeiro, Portugal

We returned on Friday from nine days at a villa in Carvoeiro in the Algarve, southern Portugal. It was a great chill-out holiday spent mostly reading by the pool. The villa has a stock of around 200 paperbacks that were left by previous guests. The book I enjoyed most was the wonderful novel by Marina Lewycka called A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian.
The narrator and her sister, who have never got along, have to join forces to save their 84 year-old father from the clutches of a 36 year-old Ukranian gold-digger, whose huge enhanced breasts have mesmerised the old man.
The story is, by turns, comic, moving, tragic and revealing. What is revealed, to the narrator, is the war-time family secrets from which she has been sheilded.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian is, in fact, the title of a book within the novel that her father is writing.
I was trying to think of other novels where the title of the book was also the title of a work within the fiction; there are probably lots of them. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one - please let me know of any others you can think of.

The lovely cool lounge of Casa das Palmeiras, where we stayed.

I also enjoyed reading a book by Simon Kuper clumsily titled Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe During the Second World War. The fascinating subject, superficially, is soccer in Europe during the war years but the underlying themes that I found of real interest was Dutch resistance to the Nazis (or lack of it), anti-semitism, Nazi propoganda and the way Ajax was percieved as a 'Jewish' club. I found the book a little disconnected in the way it jumped from one topic to another with no obvious connection but it was, overall, an enjoyable read.

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