Husband-wife duo Sandy and Suzanna are both reporters in Australia, who travel to the city of Fez on a holiday. They immediately fall in love with the vibrant colours, smells and sounds of Fez, a stark contrast to what they feel is a mass-produced, packaged life back home. They soon begin to dream a crazy dream of buying and living in a riad in Fez, a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard, intricately designed woodwork and a water fountain. One day, they realise that they have collected enough money to enable them to fulfill this crazy dream of theirs, and, after a bit of searching around, a riad is indeed bought. It is a run-down mansion, christened Riad Zany, as a memento of the crazy dream they dreamed. Plans are made and activities are set in process to restore the riad, which has been uninhabited for quite a few years, and to make it hospitable. How Sandy and Suzanna go about the process of restoration of the riad, and how they fall deeper and deeper in love with life in Fez is what comprises the book A House In Fez.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Suzanna Clarke’s A House In Fez – her experience with restoration, her frustrating neighbours, the ups and downs of life in Fez, et al. I liked Suzanna’s writing style, which is matter-of-fact, simple and lucid, transporting me all the way to Fez, making me feel all her exasperations and happiness, too. The copy of the book I had had some black-and-white pictures of Fez and Riad Zany, that had me utterly enchanted. These pictures, and Suzanna’s descriptions, made me dream of visiting Fez some day and, if possible, living in a riad, too.
Some reviews of this book I read on blogosphere mention that there is way too much description of the riad restoration and less of Fez as a place. I agree with the latter readily – it would have been wonderful if Suzanna could have delved deeper into what Fez is actually like, its cultures and traditions, people, food and landmarks. Not that she hasn’t touched upon these aspects at all, she has, but I would have loved for these things to have been covered in much greater detail. As for the description of the riad restoration, yes, that comprises a major part of the book, but didn’t take away from my reading experience in any way. It is, in no way, boring or uninteresting. To be fair to Suzanna, the book is about her house in Fez, rather than a travel book, and she has stuck to the point. It is more like a personal memoir about the restoration of the riad than anything else, not that it is not a great read that way.
Suzanna has touched upon certain traditions in Fez – like Sufism and animal sacrifices – and these parts had me hooked the most. She makes Fez sound like such an enchanting, mysterious place with layers and layers to it that one can spend ages unravelling and trying to understand. I do hope there will be a sequel/s to this book, speaking about the couple’s further experiences in Fez, unravelling those layers it has. If so, I would definitely love to read them.
This is a book that I would heartily recommend to lovers of travel books, and to those who love reading about different cultures.