Books Magazine

Under a Croatian Sun

By Drharrietd @drharrietd


 'From gray Britain to a sunny isle: one couple's dream comes true', says the subtitle, and that says it all, really. There have been quite a few books about living, or attempting to live, the good life in France and Italy, but this is the first I have encountered that is set in Croatia. Anthony Stancomb tells the story of how he and his wife Ivana left Fulham, in London, for the island of Vis, the remotest island off the Croatian coast. Ivana's family had once fled from this part of the world, so her visit was quite loaded with emotional baggage. But the house they had found was delightful (or promised to be so once they had persuaded the builders to finish it), and even in April, when they arrived to take up residence, the weather was glorious. So all they had to do now was find their way around and make friends with the locals. 

Needless to say this brought many surprises.

At the end of our first week, a terrifying-looking woman dressed as if she was going to a Queen Victoria impersonation competition, appeared on our doorstep. In her sixties and with a face like a weathered block of granite, it looked as if someone had givn her bad news in 1958 and she was still chewing on it. She announced that she had come to be our housekeeper. 

This proved to be a mixed blessing, as Kermela was a whizz at cleaning, but brought all her friends round to tut over the ancient furniture and floorboards that had been uncovered when the old linoleum was taken up. 

Over the coming months, among other things, Anthony establishes Croatia's first cricket team, starts to learn Croatian and buys a boat, Ivana gets involved with various kinds of herbal medicines, and the couple participate in musical evenings and dinner parties as the locals, very slowly, come to accept them as friends. By the autumn, they have truly become part of the community that viewed them with such suspicion and mistrust when they arrived. 'You make all Vis people so happy', says one neighbor. 'You proper Vis people now. Yes?'

So all in all quite a success story, which should inspire anyone who wants to get out of the rat race (though having a wife who speaks Croatian would be a definite advantage).

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