Annie Hawes, the bestselling author of Extra Virgin, has another cracking book. It’s A Handful of Honey and should be on the required reading list for anyone planning a trip to Morocco or, less probable, a trip to Algeria.
At first sight I wondered why the nice people at Pan Macmillan would want me to review a travel book. Well, OK, it sounds like it should be a history of bee keeping but it was obviously not that. What then?
A Handful of Honey – Away to the Palm Groves of Morocco and Algeria is an autobiography/travel book. It’s not like any other I have read but turned out to be utterly absorbing. The first few pages have nothing to do with North Africa but rather Portugal and we find our guide, Annie Hawes, incarcerated in a grubby prison. Even writing about those conditions Annie manages colourful descriptions of the meals, or I should say the same meal several times!
The book revolves around a search for friends she had made on her trip home from that Portugese ‘holiday’. She had been befriended by a group of young Algerians who were off to France to work on the building sites. Many years later Annie is offered a chance to visit Morocco and Algeria with a couple of French chums, and so she starts her quest.
The French guidebook series, Le Petit Futé (written by one of our neighbours), is often mentioned and seems to have been the indispensible companion for the group, however this didn’t prevent Annie from getting into some edgy situations. She is not a girl content to conform – if she was she wouldn’t have found the material to write this book!
Each episode seems to involve the famed North African hospitality and food. There are lovely memories of shared feasts, of alfresco snacks, dining customs and hitherto unknown ingredients. It hasn’t got glitzy restaurant reviews, nor enticing recipes but it gives a real flavour of what you might expect should you wander of the well-beaten tourist track.
If you are off to the Maghreb (southern Mediterranean coast) then read this book before you go.
A Handful of Honey – Away to the Palm Groves of Morocco and Algeria
Author: Annie Hawes
Published by: Pan Macmillan Ltd.
Book review by Chrissie Walker © 2018