Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Seriously Mum, What's An Alpaca by Alan Parks

Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca? by Alan Parks
Self published in February 2015.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Could you give up everything you have worked for and do something completely different? Would you give up and go home if it all went wrong?
'Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca?' is the frank and charming story of a brave couple who move to Spain to breed alpacas. Their intention is to make a living, but first they must negotiate their way through the Spanish property market, local characters, rogue builders and the worst weather AndalucĂ­a has seen for 100 years. Alan and Lorna experience the joy, but also the heartbreak of alpaca breeding, picking up an assortment of stray animals on the way. Will they succeed, or will the challenges prove too much to bear?

I discovered author Alan Parks on Twitter as he is from the Eastbourne area where I used to live. Spotting his tweet offering a copy of his first book Seriously Mum, What's An Alpaca? in return for a review, I volunteered. Dave and I are currently touring Spain for the winter so reading about an English couple who have taken the plunge to actually live out here seemed appropriate. Seriously Mum recounts various incidents during the first months of Alan and Lorna Parks' new life as they set themselves up as alpaca breeders in a disused olive mill in Andalucia. Their proposed lifestyle is meant to be idyllic, but unfortunately a lack of preparation and animal husbandry experience leads to a series of disasters that threaten their dream almost before it has become established.

We don't really get to know Lorna through this book as it is written solely by Alan as a series of sketches rather than an in-depth view of their life. The decision to uproot and change career comes across as being a whim that gained a momentum of its own. Neither has experience of livestock care and at several points this ignorance has sad consequences, not enough to prevent more animals being added to their menagerie though. The couple admit to still being completely inept in Spanish over a year after arriving and I found it odd that, despite their insistence on living in a Spanish community rather than with ex-pats, they shun social opportunities such as the Feria week. Many of Alan's written asides criticise Spanish culture from a strongly English perspective and I wonder whether they will ever assimilate or always remain the English outsiders.

With regards to the book itself, Alan does successfully avoid the indie author curse of poor spelling/grammar etc, but Seriously Mum feels very superficial throughout. I would have preferred deeper writing allowing me to get to know Alan and Lorna and understand their choices and decisions. Instead, brief sentences describe serious events such as the day a particular animal dies and is buried which is solely covered as 'a sad day'. I learned next to nothing about alpaca care and even the rich Andalucian culture is mostly bypassed. There are several odd little vignettes apparently written by selected animals expressing gratitude at having been taken in. I didn't get those at all. Perhaps originally intended for young readers? Overall, I found this book disappointing and thought it a missed opportunity.

Etsy Find!
by Alpaca Rescue Centre in
Cornwall, England

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Alan Parks / Biography and memoir / Books from England


  1. It sounded promising to start. It would be cool to learn more about alpacas (I think they're cool) and to experience Andalucian culture through the author's words. That's disappointing. :/

    1. Alpacas are adorable! There were some near my parents home in Sussex :-)

  2. It's a shame that this one had a premise which you were really looking forward to, but then it failed to really delve deeper. It's good that it is well written though.

    1. I think perhaps written with an eye towards a much younger audience