Book review: Broke’n’English by Jerry Smith

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Once upon a time there was a real stigma associated with self-publishing a book. Lumped in with the murky world of the vanity publisher, it was seen as the penniless relation to the deal with a ‘real’ publisher.

This perception has been gradually eroded over the last few years.

Writers like Michael J.Sullivan and Ashwin Sanghi may still be in the minority of self-published authors that go on to great commercial success, but their stories have further bolstered the credibility of taking this path. This can only be a good thing for readers; we can now get our hands on many

books that would previously not have seen the light of day, lost in the numbers game that is traditional publishing where many high quality reads miss out on a deal.

Broke’n’English is one such book.

Written by retired Englishman Jerry Smith, who moved to Sri Lanka with his wife Sally to build and run their own guest house in the hills of the tea estates, this is a story than began its life as his journals. It is a compelling tale with all the drama and excitement of an adventure novel.

Sally was born in Sri Lanka, leaving with her tea-planter parents in the 1970s.

And Smith’s first ever visit to the island Marco Polo is said to have been christened ‘the most beautiful in the world’ involved a race against time mission to liberate old family gem stones from a safety deposit box and around a hundred layers of bureaucracy

When the couple do embark upon the long, complicated process of purchasing land, building a guest house and running a business on the island, they encounter so many obstacles and bureaucratic hurdles that the book becomes an occasionally stressful read.

But Smith retells it all with good humour and the equinimity that comes with hindsight.

Reading this book feels like spending an evening with a glass of wine in hand, in the

company of a great storyteller with a wonderful story to tell. It becomes irresistible; I read the whole thing in one sitting.

Broke’n’English is a tale of a couple who take the road less travelled by, in some cases the

road never before travelled by, and it is inspiring stuff.

I am delighted that Smith has self-published this work and given us the opportunity to share a few miles of that extraordinary road with them.