Life and love in Madrid by Kate Boyle
We’re off to Madrid today with the lovely Kate Boyle who invited us to see her side of the city. It’s a city she knows well and loves having taught English to Spanish students. When she’s not revisiting her adopted homeland or trying to make a perfect Spanish tortilla, she can be found in a PR agency by day and writing her second novel by night. So, it was lovely to spend some time Spanish style!
Kate, to say I am excited heading back to Madrid, a city I know well, is an understatement. I haven’t seen it through your eyes though!
First of all – the title
The Spanish phrase “Más feliz que una perdiz” ie happier thana patridge, actually means “As happy as Larry” Now if that doesn’t get yoru attention, nothing will. Plus, it’s an apt phrase for how this novel makes you feel.
Katie: it’s over to you:
Happy as a Partridge: Life and Love in Madrid is a light-hearted and entertaining tale of an English girl living and teaching in Madrid. From her struggles with the language to her hilarious interactions with mechanics students and dates with Spanish men, the book follows the ups and downs of expat life and Evie’s attempts to find a balance between her ties to home and her love for the freedom that her new life in Spain offers.
Madrid will always hold a very special place in my heart. Similar to the protagonist in my book, six years ago I quit my job and whilst panicking about what to do next I made a rash decision to head to Spain, primarily to avoid everyone’s questions on my non-existent ‘life plan’, but also to improve my Spanish and hopefully find inspiration for my next steps. On arrival my panic stepped up a notch. I was underwhelmed by the hectic and unattractive city, incapable of stringing a sentence together in Spanish and above all, lonely.
However, within days my entire outlook on the city had changed under its expansive blue skies and I enthusiastically set off like Christopher Columbus from Puerta del Sol in the centre of Madrid, on a mission to explore the city and visit every last corner. These carefree days before I started work were wonderfully useful research when describing the setting in my book, and I ended up living in the city for nearly three years. I believe this experience adds a real authenticity to the book in terms of knowledge of location and all of my personal experiences in Madrid informed and inspired my writing.
Madrid may not have the grandeur of Rome or Paris, but it possesses infinite charm that’s mesmerising once it takes hold. From the beautiful Museo Sorolla, filled with beautiful sunny beach scenes by the Spanish artist, to the wonderful Retiro Park filled with families strolling in the sunshine, with music blowing on the wind and rowing boats out on the lake under the watchful gaze of Alfonso XIII, I spent many happy days discovering new places. I wanted to include sites like the Museo Sorolla in the book to show the immense collections of art in small museums throughout the city, as well as the larger examples such as the Prado. I spent much time relaxing in Retiro admiring its beauty, and I found it a perfect spot for people watching and learning about the Spaniards.
Another great spot for people watching is Plaza de Olavide. This is where I sat for a long time, taking a break while searching for a flat on my first day in Madrid and I think it’s where my love of the city first stirred. I remember sipping my coffee and watching a group of grannies on a bench under a tree, nattering away, whilst their husbands put the world to rights on the opposite bench. Immaculately dressed children were playing in front of them and their mothers, their faces covered with huge sunglasses, were drinking beer at 10am nearby. For me this sort of scene sums up the relaxed attitude of Madrid, and this square is the first place I head to when I’m back in the city, along with La Perejila restaurant in La Latina which I adore for all its eccentric décor, hectic ambiance and mouth-watering food.
My protagonist Evie loves spending time in the trendy barrio, or neighbourhood, of Malasaña, which is home to her favourite café, Carmencita as well as many of the bars that she frequents: Bodega La Ardosa, Kikekeller and 1862 Dry Bar. Through her eyes in the book you will visit the monumental El Escorial a short drive outside Madrid, experience the atmosphere of a Real Madrid match at the Bernabeu stadium and explore the patchwork of barrios that make up the city, all with their proud and individual characters. I like to think of Happy as a Partridge as my love letter to the city and all it’s quirks and I hope it does it justice.
Thanks so much Katie for such a wonderful tour of your literary locations. Think you’ve given a really touching homage to Madrid