We may not be doing much travelling this year so grab a garden chair and dive into some escapist literature set in exotic locations just down the road for a ‘virtual staycation’, writes Belinda Beckett. Here are some fabulous books on Spain for you:



A Vineyard in Andalucia

María Dueñas Pour yourself a chilled fino and journey back to 1860s Jerez when British demand for vino de Jerez made the city rich and famous. You’ll learn loads of sherry secrets as you follow the epic adventures of a ruined Spanish silver merchant who wins a vineyard in a bet. The Seamstress, by the same author, set in Tangier and Spain, is the gripping true story of glamorous WW2 spy Rosalinda Fox who retired to the Cádiz village of Guadarranque.


At least two famous authors have been drawn to this isolated landscape of snowcapped mountains and fertile valleys skimming the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

Driving over Lemons, Chris Stewart

Stewart surrendered his drumsticks to Phil Collins in the rock band Genesis to live the good life in the wilds of Granada, farming sheep and writing best sellers. Most of us are intimately acquainted with the enchanting four-book series but his maggots-and-all account of finca living on the wrong side of a river with no access road, water or electricity is a rollicking revisit.

South from Granada, Gerald Brenan

Ten hours hike from Stewart’s finca but worlds apart in time, discover the village of Yegen in the days when men were macho and young ladies were courted behind rejas. Brenan captures the spirit of rural Spain from a bygone era with its cheap brothels, incense-drenched religion and quirky characters, spiced with visits from the sophisticated Bloomsbury Group literati. Bring it all to life with a visit to Brenan’s casa-museum in Málaga.


The Rock, Robert Daws

Explore the blind alleys and hairpin bends of the quirky British territory through the exploits of two crack officers in the Royal Gibraltar Police in a plot with as many murderous twists and turns. D.S. Tamara Sullivan is on secondment from the London Met to the world’s second oldest police force, bracing herself for 12 tedious suntanned weeks in a crime-free backwater… but fate and old school D.I. Gus Broderick have other ideas. Their partnership continues for two sequels (The Poisoned Rock, Tunnel Vision).

More used to starring in crime thrillers than writing them (Jeeves and Wooster, Midsomer Murders, New Tricks) Daws says: “Sitting in my study in Bedfordshire on a cold May afternoon, I can easily see why I like writing about life lived under a Mediterranean sun in a unique geographical location where two mighty continents meet. The thought of that never fails to thrill my senses.”


Hot Milk, Deborah Levy

There’s a sting in this tale that doesn’t refer to the medusa jellyfish washed up on the beaches of Almeria where a daughter is seeking a cure for her ‘career invalid’ mother at a private clinic. The mythological Medusa who turns men to stone is a recurring metaphor in this darkly droll and dreamlike novel as the women’s prickly relationship is put to the test in the searing heat of the region’s arid desert climate. Shortlisted for the Mann Booker Prize, Levy was praised for her poetry of language and way of finding wonder in the everyday.


Platero and I, Juan Ramón Jiménez

The river port town of Moguer has long been associated with the voyages of Christopher Columbus but it has been immortalised by a silver-furred donkey called Platero ‘so soft to the touch that he might be said to be made of cotton, with no bones’. Jiménez won the 1956 Nobel Prize for Literature for his prolific works but this delightful prose poem, describing everyday life in his home town through imaginary conversations with his four-legged friend, is the masterpiece.


Tangerine, Christine Mangan

Set in 1950s Tangier in its International Zone when it was ruled by 12 countries, Canadian school friends Lucy and Alice, estranged after a mysterious ‘accident’, rekindle their relationship among the mosques and minarets but all is not as it seems. Mangan makes good use of the ‘strange, lawless city that belonged to everyone and no one’ in this psychological thriller, optioned by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures for a film starring Scarlett Johansson.


The Drifters, James Michener

Drop out in Torremolinos during its hippy heyday with this classic coming-of-age tale. Six disparate young drifters meet by chance in a local bar and spend the extended gap year of a lifetime smoking dope in Marrakech, bull running in Pamplona and living it up on the Costa de la Luz. This long read is the vicarious experience of a lifetime. Follow up with Iberia, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s non-fiction tribute to his second home.


As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee

Join Lee on his epic 1934 hike through Spain, busking on violin and sleeping rough as the storm clouds of Spanish Civil War gather. It takes him three quarters of the book to reach the Andalusian coast but it’s worth the wait for his lyrical description of Cádiz‘… a scribble of white on a sheet of blue glass, lying curved in the bay like a scimitar and sparkling with African light.’


A Literary Guide for Travellers, Andrew and Suzanne Edwards

ANDALUCÍA has been inspiring writers since Pliny the Younger put pen to parchment to describe the Roman colony of Baetica and its deeper connections with the literati are all here: Cervantes, Lorca, Hemingway – over 100 iconic writers along with some surprises: Victorian novelist George Eliot whose Daniel Deronda was named after Ronda; Lord Byron who found, in Sevilla, ‘that reserve is not the characteristic of the Spanish belle’; and Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen who was captivated by Málaga. ‘In no other Spanish city I have come to feel as happy and as comfortable’ he wrote in his 1882 travelogue, In Spain – and you can still get it on Kindle!