After graduating from university, Lucy Neville decides to take off and live abroad. Oh Mexico!, a funny and adventurous tale of Neville’s two years in Mexico City, doesn’t fail to entertain readers while exposing them to the culture, poverty and corruption of Central America.
As Neville writes, ‘…when Mexicans go to live in other countries, it’s because of the necessity of finding a job. In my case it was the necessity of avoiding getting a job.’
The truth of this statement is possibly what makes her first novel such a page-turner. Many of us love the idea of downing sticks and throwing off responsibility to go live in some exotic location – Neville allows us to do this from the safety of our armchairs.
Finding work as an English teacher, Neville becomes surrounded by the local characters who attend her classes even though they all speak perfect English. One of the most entertaining weekly classes is a group of women whose favourite pastime is to complain about their ex-husbands and how they can make their lives difficult.
Through Neville’s words we learn what it would be like to work in a city that is largely corrupt. Her employer is consistently at least two months behind in paying her wages, there are ‘good police’ and ‘bad police’, and drug trafficking and pirated videos make up a large percentage of Mexico’s employment.
Oh Mexico! gives us an insight into the rich history, warm nature and cultural celebrations and beliefs of the Mexican people without becoming overwhelming. Neville has a knack for providing just the right amount of information so that readers have an understanding of the lives of the many characters surrounding her.
Neville’s sense of honesty is refreshing for her age, she doesn’t appear smitten with the idea of moving to another country in search of who she is, her goal is simply to avoid becoming the job-chained adult we’re expected to become once the degree is in our hands. And, as Neville points out, living in a foreign country looks good on your resume, even if you’re not doing anything to further your career.
Like many before her, Neville finds herself in the emotional cycle that comes to foreigners living in a country very different from their own, but she doesn’t dwell on this for pages. Instead, Neville brings humour to the book with anecdotes such as telling the taco men that she ‘…loved Mexican bottoms, and that I was a lesbian (I didn’t like ‘sausage and eggs’). But I would come back tomorrow and try out heterosexual sex.’
No travel memoir would be complete without a love interest, and in this case, Neville finds herself with two, torn between her flamboyant and attractive housemate, and a warm and loving work college. She needs to make a decision soon since her family are about to drop in for a visit and land in the middle of all the chaos.
Oh Mexico! is filled with with, colour and warmth and is a hugely enjoyable read, written with a vibrant and refreshing style. Neville proves the point that avoiding getting a real job can lead to achieving what we might never have otherwise imagined.
Published on Media-Culture Reviews.