Well, it's 17th August and I have finally left Portugal after a rather long and (I have to say) intense stay! The Portuguese book 'What Can I Do When Everything Is On Fire?' is undoubtedly a triumph of the stream-of-consciousness format (and of translation!) - but it was hard going at times due to that format and also due to the nature of its subject matter (death, suicide, mental illness, drug addiction etc).
I would recomend it but you should be in the right frame of mind - and with time set aside to plough through its 600+ pages - before starting.
I won't spoil the ending but suffice to say after that I was hoping for a spot of light relief in the sunny climes of swanky Monaco...
....and I got it! Robert Westgate's account of his year's sojourn in Monaco is a pleasant, undemanding snapshot of the place and its (mostly ex-pat) inhabitants. His views of Monaco, and the neighbouring European countries he takes trips over to, are a little overly cynical sometimes. One gets the sense that he is aiming for the American-abroad aloofness of Hemingway (an obvious hero of his) but he ends up sounding a bit crabby and petty at times..
Still, pleasant enough company for a short book to represent this small country. In fact it could have done with a bit of fleshing out, as some interesting characters are introduced but then dropped with alarming brevity. The cover notes state that Westgate is working on a onvel about Monaco, and this book reads like the hastily published manuscript notes for that - but as I say, the book is entertaining and undemanding, if a little overpriced:- a bit like Monaco itself!!
I have another 50 pages and then its over the Ligurian Sea to Italy in the company of Umberto Eco (first stop Milan)! See you there!