* Prices may differ from that shown
Annie Hawes is one of my favourite travel writers. I read her first book Extra Virgin several years ago, and have reread it lots of times since, along with the two follow ups. All three are about her life in Italy, and her style really brings the places and people alive. However when I heard about her fourth book, A Handful Of Honey, I wasn't quite so keen - it is about North Africa, an area which I am not as interested in. Still, it being Annie Hawes, I gave it a go.
Two French friends of Annies, Gerard and Guy, decided to take a long trip to Morocco and Algeria, and invited her along. As their journey would take in the town of Timimoun in Algeria, she decided to go along. As a teenager she met some boys from Timimoun on a train through France during a very dark time for her, and they came to her rescue. She is hoping she will find them, and sets off on the journey with her final destination set as Timimoun.
It took me a while to get into A Handful Of Honey, and that is because the area it covers was not one I was enthralled by before starting to read. I love to read books and watch things about the countries further south in Africa, but have never had such an interest in Morocco and Algeria. Morocco is somewhere we hear about a lot as a tourist destination, and Algeria is not a place I know anything about.
Hawes style however does bring places alive. The trio visit small villages as well as big cities, and they travel and stay with locals and make plenty of friends along the way. I was soon sucked in by the characters they meet and Hawes vivid descriptions of everything they come across. The smells and colours of North Africa are almost tangible from Hawes writing, and this really helped to spark my interest in the places they visited.
I found that it was the second half of the book, on Algeria, which really made the book become unputdownable for me. I'm ashamed that I really did know nothing about its history beyond the fact it had been a French colony, but of course there is much more to the story than that. I learnt along with Hawes, and while she provided a lot of good information and a good introduction to the history, I now want to go and read more about Algeria. I'll put it on my factual reading list which seems to grow all the time...Congo is next.
As the group got closer and closer to Timimoun, I couldn't stop reading. I was desperate for Hawes to find her friends and have a reunion - rather annoyingly the blurb on the back had already revealed that she does meet them, I wish that had not been there as it would have added an element of surprise and given me something to keep hoping for. Travel novels don't always have a story, they are often just experiences, but A Handful Of Honey does, yet the publishers chose to reveal the ending on the back!
Another publishing irritation was that the book had rather a lot of typos in it! Things like misspellings and plurals where there should be a singular. This is poor editing, and almost made it seem that the book had been published in a hurry without a thorough proofread.
Overall however, I really enjoyed A Handful Of Honey. It is a travel book with a story and a purpose to it, and Hawes excellent writing style really made me want to learn more about these fascinating countries. With her first three books I would suggest reading them in order as they do build on what has happened before, but A Handful Of Honey could easily be read without reading her previous books, as it does not relate to them. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys travel writing, and I would also say that Annie Hawes would be a good place to start if you have not read any travel before.