Introducing a new feature on The Average Reader. **Spotlight On The Author**
Today’s spotlight session is to share the work of author Susie Kelly. One of my favourite memoir writers. Would like to wish Susie all the very best at the moment
I first became aware of Susie Kelly’s books round about 2002, long before I was blogging and reviewing books and since that time have read and enjoyed all of them, except for one that I haven’t yet read. I love memoirs from authors, who not only write well but also have a fantastic sense of humour.
Susie is one of those people who attract rather eccentric people who are drawn to spending time in her company even if it’s not reciprocated. I have a similar problem but Susie beats me hands down and during her travels, or indeed in her own home meets many colourful characters who are often included in her books.
When Susie decides, at the age of 50+, to trek alone across France with her tent on her back, she entrusts her French farmhouse full of assorted animals to a total stranger from Texas. As Susie doggedly tramps 500 miles over unknown terrain from La Rochelle to Geneva, frequently lost and either too hot or too cold, Texan Jennifer copes heroically with lost dogs, erratic electricity, old men hiding in bushes, and a language she cannot speak.
For each of them it is a life-changing experience. Both find their resourcefulness and ingenuity tested to the limit as, in their own ways, they explore and enjoy the culture, cuisine and people of Europe’s most fascinating country. Travel writing at its best…
SPECIAL FEATURE Follow Susie’s journey step by step, chapter by chapter. Each chapter begins with a clickable link to an online map showing where Susie has reached. Take an immersive walk through France with Susie today…
The author and her husband devised a simple plan – to take a tent and the dog and drive around the perimeter of France. Like many simple plans it went wrong before it started and they ended up with two dogs and a campervan named Tinkerbelle.
Starting in Brittany, they motorhome along the Atlantic Coast south to the Pyrenees, then follow the Mediterranean resorts to the Alps before juddering off towards the north coast across terrifyingly high mountain causeways.
But on the second day of their journey Tinkerbelle begins to self-destruct, helped by the new dog who does his best to eat her from the inside out.
This is their story, as they travel from sandy beaches to snow-topped mountains exploring the diverse cultures, cuisines and countryside making up the country called France.
Their journey takes them to places out of the ordinary, meeting interesting characters and witnessing ancient traditions.
While the dogs rejoice in the freedom they find running on the beaches, Susie and Terry spend a lot of time holding their breath, wondering whether their clapped out old campervan called Tinkerbelle will manage to negotiate impossible mountain routes and get them home before she completely disintegrates.
Susie Kelly and her husband Terry had long dreamed of owning a home in France, but ironically it wasn’t until they were facing homeless penury in England that they realized their dream. With five dogs, two parrots and their elderly horses, they moved to an old farmhouse in the Poitou-Charentes region with dirt floors, no water and a primitive electricity supply.
While Terry was back in England trying to support them all, Susie Kelly contended with a homicidal gas cooker at the bottom of the garden, burst pipes, a guinea fowl that turned somersaults and bit people on the shin and a constant stream of people turning up at her door with needs of their own. Sometimes the enormity of renovating a house with insufficient funds and little help seemed overwhelming. She saw her husband infrequently. Their English neighbour was imprisoned on drug-smuggling charges. And when Terry developed a condition that brought him close to death, the dream threatened to turn into a nightmare.
There were times when Susie and Terry seemed to be taking two steps backward, but the kindness of the local community and the tranquillity of the landscape inspired them to make a new life for themselves and their animals in the place they now called home.
Keen to discover some of France’s lesser-known attractions, Susie Kelly and her husband Terry embarked with their two dogs on a 10,000 kilometre journey, where they encountered exploding gherkins, killer waves, chilli-flavoured chocolates, sinister submarines, and pitchforks grown in fields.
They crossed the historic paths of Charlemagne, Vauban and William the Bastard, and the battlefields of two world wars, and were bewitched by Bayeux’s tapestry. Bovine-friendly courses Camarguaises and a transhumance provided entertainment; distressed birds required assistance, and hospitality was offered by characters kind, charming and quirky.
The camper van’s exhaust falling off into the road on the first day, and one of the dogs persistently trying to eat the vehicle and its contents, did nothing to spoil their magical voyage along the Brittany, Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines, the mountains of the Pyrenees and Alps, the length of the Rhine, the borders of north-eastern France, and the Channel.
This cornucopia of sights, sensations, legends and history is a must-read that will enchant Francophiles and armchair travellers everywhere.
This is Susie Kelly at her brilliant best. A hilarious bike ride through Paris & into the French countryside follows Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI’s flight during the French Revolution.
Susie’s cycling adventure follows the route taken by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette on their abortive escape from the French Revolution and their journey back to their executions. After a hair-raising journey through Paris that nearly ends in her own execution by traffic, Susie finds a little-known area of northern France full of history, flowing with champagne, with calm waterways and tranquil countryside bursting with history. Idyllic territory for cyclists.
But cyclist she is not. By suggesting an electric bicycle that will get her through the uphill slogs, her husband persuades her that travelling on two wheels is by far the best way to see the little-known, virtually undocumented part of France.
From Paris and Versailles, she wobbles on to the vineyards and champagne cellars of Epernay and Reims, then through the Marne valley, the scene of unimaginable horror and devastation during World War 1. In three weeks Susie and Terry cycle 500 miles, dining sometimes in luxury and often on weird makeshift meals in their tent. Along the way there are traumas, epiphanies, occasional matrimonial disagreements and the odd glass of champagne.
“There are a handful of authors who achieve that elusive trick of making you laugh out loud. For me it’s James Herriot, Bill Bryson and Susie Kelly.” FrenchEntrée Magazine
Sometimes it feels more like taking part in a musical comedy than starting a new life in France.
***** ‘A laugh-out-loud romp through an honest story of moving to France & buying a house that is anything but the French dream (who needs water and electricity? lol!).’ Goodreads
***** ‘I’m a huge fan… as usual Susie’s humour and skill at recounting events in her life during that time period had me laughing out loud.’ Mrs Bloggs’ Books
Who hasn’t dreamt of living in France?
For Susie that dream comes true…
…but not in the way she had imagined.
Yes, the countryside is spacious and peaceful….
…on summer nights the stars skim the rooftops, the owls hoot and the nightingales sing. Sunflowers smile from their fields.
Then there’s the food and the wine…
…the wine is cheap and the baguettes are crusty.
The French neighbours are generous and gentle.
But then come the drug addicts, builders who cannot build, demanding compatriots, undercover cops and unwelcome guests. Susie begins to lose hope of attracting the fabled French philanderer and, far from appreciating their new home, the animals do everything they can to make life as difficult as possible.
With her house literally crumbling around her, the number of odd characters Susie manages to attract are only matched by the assortment of creatures appearing from in and out of the woodwork.
When her husband almost dies, Susie’s resilience and good humour are tested to the limit.
A Child Called ‘It’ meets Out of Africa in this stunning memoir of a woman’s 1950s childhood in Kenya. Filled with candid humor and insights, this authentic tale captures one woman’s incredible coming-of-age journey.” BookBub
The much-loved travel writer recalls a 1950s childhood in post-war London’s every shade of grey and the splendours of Africa as, with her glamorous mother and father, Susie boards a ship bound for exotic, technicolor Kenya. Then in its final decade as a colony, Kenya was peopled with larger-than-life characters who had helped to forge its identity. There, with the threats of the Mau Mau uprising ever-present, Susie’s life disintegrates at break-neck speed into a web of jealousy, rejection and casual cruelty. Each time it seems things cannot get any worse, they do as Susie lifts the lid on her own, often shocking, behavior in her quest to protect herself and those she loves. Rebellious, lonely and self-destructive, it is a small grey pony named Cinderella who saves Susie from herself and brings her the love she craves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susie Kelly was born in grey post-war London, and spent much of her childhood and young adulthood in the beautiful country of Kenya.
She now lives in south-west France with a menagerie of assorted animals, and is passionate about animal welfare.
Her first book “Best Foot Forward” was published by Transworld Publishers in 2003, followed by “Two Steps Backward” in 2004, and “A Perfect Circle” in 2006.
Since 2011 Susie’s books have been published by Blackbird Digital Books, whose theme is strong, adventurous women living life to the full. Blackbird Digital Book people love birds and animals, travel, history, romance, natural health and environment, resourcefulness, humour, the surreal and magic.
If her house caught fire and she could only save three things (apart from her animals, of course), they would be courage, compassion and a sense of humour.