Felicity Timcke’s monologic, epistolary publication, Silk, Spices, Veils and Vodka” brings both a refreshing and new approach to life on the expat trail. South African by origin, Timcke has lived in some very exotic places, mostly along the more challenging countries of the Silk Road. Although the book’s content, which is entirely composed of letters to the author’s friends and family, is directed primarily at this group, it provides “20 years of musings” that will enthral and delight those who have either experienced a similar expatriate existence or who are nervously about to depart for one.
Starting in Uzbekistan, Timcke’s world of “firsts”, the excitement of a new posting and a new place to explore are clear in the style and tone of her early letters written from the home of an Uzbek family that she and her husband live with. Her shopping visits to the stationery shop to buy toilet paper and of her first pay check arriving in a carrier back of small notes gloss over the more sinister bureaucracy and control she discovers as she goes deeper under the country’s skin.
With interludes in a more familiar England, Timcke soon finds herself in Maputo, Mozambique chasing art deco buildings and avoiding being dragged into the local school musical extravaganza, before heading to Kabul, Afghanistan and being held hostage…by Americans. Forced to leave Kabul as the bombs intensify and her local supermarket falls victim she next heads to Iran and is keen to dispel the negative publicity as she celebrates new year in Tehran, welcoming the new year, that is the year 1389.
Finishing with a perhaps more civilised Dubai and Istanbul, Timcke’s book is well adapted to those who wish to dip in and out, read a letter or two at a time and then ponder for themselves what it might really be like if one day they were sent to live in these once faraway places full of silk, spices, veils and (in some cases) plenty of vodka.