Sean Condon's My 'Dam Life

25th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Freelance journalist Pip Farquharson leafs through a new book about an expat's quirky experiences in the Dutch capital.

Every other person I meet in Amsterdam is, it seems, 'writing a book'. After a while I just assumed it must be the new 'in between jobs' line.


So when, a year or so ago, an Australian nightlife acquaintance Sean Condon told me he was 'writing a book', I didn’t take much notice. The thing is, though, he was writing a book. And this, ahem, is actually his fourth published book.

Underneath his literal belt, in fact, he has two other Lonely Planet publications – Sean and David’s Long Drive (1996) and Drive Thru America (1998) – and the fictional Film (published by Fourth Estate).

Subtitled 'Three Years in Holland', My 'Dam Life is an offbeat travel guide-journal-novel in which Condon pens his and his wife Sally's move from Australia to Amsterdam. Portraying himself as a self-deprecating, insecure, beautifully vulnerable, hapless hypochondriac with a penchant for morbidity, Condon, leads the reader along a familiar journey of arriving in a foreign country, being unemployed, hunting for an apartment and dealing with bureaucracy.

Realistic, witty and humorous (often laugh-out-loud funny), Condon explores Dutch culture from the hagelslag phenomenon to customer service ('Ever since the seventeenth century, Amsterdam has been famous for its lack of customer service'). And the book includes a wonderful scene where Condon attempts to buy an envelope at a post office. (Of all places!)

Interspersed between his often deliberately banal ramblings on daily life are enticing snippets of Dutch history, actual news from around the world and, indulging his obsession with celebrities, stories of his encounters with the likes of Monica Lewinsky and Francis Ford Coppola.

Every foreigner who has arrived in similar circumstances in this city will be able to relate to the book; those still living here will be delighted by references to bars, situations and characters they know. And for those heading here, this should be the book picked up off the shelf in place of Hugo's Dutch in Three Months. However, regardless of your place in the world, My 'Dam Life makes for a damn fine read.

ISBN: 0864427816 (€16,95)
Publisher: Lonely Planet
February 2003

Subject: Book reviews

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