Under A Croatian Sun by Anthony Stancomb



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Star Rating: ****

Pages: 314

First published in 2014 by John Blake Publishing

“I don’t know why, but the dawn in South West London never seemed to have the same effect on me. Somehow, looking out of my bedroom window in London I’d never managed to get that enthused about the mystical properties of daybreak over Fulham Broadway – but here it took my breath away every time.”

Have you ever thought about leaving everything you know behind? Moving to a completely unknown country because you have decided you have had enough of your current life?

Well, this is exactly what Anthony Stancomb and his wife Ivana, did – finding a place so remote that no other English inhabitants lived there. This is not a tale of your usual English couple that have decided to retire to sunnier climbs, upping sticks and moving to Spain with the masses this is a tale of new adventures, fears and the disheartening fact that they may never be accepted by their neighbours.


Anthony and Ivana Stancomb (Image provided by A. Stancomb)

Anthony Stancomb is a successful London Businessman. Founder of a company that promoted and sold artwork across the global, meaning late night social events and indefinite travel commitments. Whilst he loved this life and enjoyed discovering new artists after thirty years constantly on the go something happened – he wanted something different.

Ivana Stancomb Argentinian by birth, Croatian by heritage met Anthony in England. She was meant to be on her way to Croatia to learn more about her family history but never quite made it instead settling down to married life in Fulham, bringing up two children. Things changed for Ivana during the war between Serbia and Croatia; she needed to help those that were currently far less fortunate than herself. So within a month of the turmoil starting, she had assembled her first convoy of aid and continued to supply the refugee camps for two years with as much as she could transport in a collection of battered ford transit vans.

It was during one of their convoy visits that they first discovered the island of Vis. Having never delivered supplies to the Island they decided to hire a boat one day and explore. They could see it shimmering on the horizon from the mainland but knew very little about what they would find when they arrived. Mooring up, excitement seeped in.


Vis (Image provided by A. Stancomb)

“Drenched in the late-afternoon sun, the village looking drowsily delightful in that sleepy way so characteristic of Croatian coastal villages.”

After wandering around and experiencing the Island coming back to life after its lazy siesta afternoon, eating fresh fish and watching the locals interact during the evening walking along the seafront the Stancombs realised that:

“…it was then that we first fell in love with the Island.”

So much so that the very next day they went in search of that perfect place that they were going to call home on this little island paradise.

Finding the right property was easy, even selling the business that Anthony had spent the last thirty years painstakingly building didn’t hurt but telling the children was hard. However unperturbed, within a short period of time they were on their way to a new relaxing life by the sea.


Their new home in Vis (Image provided by A. Stancomb)


The Courtyard in Vis (Image provided by A. Stancomb)

Getting off the ferry on Vis they had high hopes. They had enlisted a full complement of builders to renovate their beautiful, grandiose Venetian home by the sea, they had shipped all their furniture and they were ready to thrown themselves into village life. As with anything however, life never runs as smoothly as we would hope and as they open the front door of their new palace the surrounds are not quite as they had hoped – rubble still present, walls looking like they might fall down and in the midst of all their furniture a hideous pile of moving boxes still to be unpacked – had they really done the right thing?

Hoping that the locals would be more accepting they headed off at sundown to mix with their new neighbours. Once again, this didn’t seem to be as easy as they had hoped and it very soon became apparent that the villagers were not too accepting of anyone outside their ‘own kind’.

Struggling to come to terms with the slow progress on their home and the treatment from the locals they begun to think about whether they had made the right move. Forced into hiring a housekeeper because the villagers had been talking and had heard that their place was a mess Anthony and Ivana began to question whether they would ever be able to call Vis home.


The Island of Vis

Patience and persistence however won out and under the steady guidance of Karmela, their housekeeper, certain influential locals started to accept them. Clearly this was not going to be an overnight success and perseverance was going to be required but they dug their heels in and continued to work on building relationships.

Anthony would spend his days flitting between Marko’s and Zoran’s bars to interact with individuals whilst Ivana would visit the grandmothers around the village to talk about healing remedies for colds and aches and pains. Between them they would try anything to win people over. They also had a number of projects they wanted to get off the ground – a restaurant, a vineyard and a cricket team but it seemed that to do any of these you needed the approval of the Town Hall which of course was made up of local people.

Will they ever be accepted as part of the village community? Do they ever succeed with any of their own projects? This is such a fantastic read and I don’t want to spoil it for you – my suggestion pick up a copy and read the trials and tribulations of village life for yourselves – you won’t regret adding this one to your book collection.

This is a novel that anyone who has ever considered a move abroad should read. I guarantee any of those fears you have ever voiced which have ultimately stopped you from taking that step and going are expressed here. From language barriers and work-related issues to being accepted as an outsider are all explored in an honest way. At times you read about them floundering and discussing whether they should return back to the UK but that was never really an option.

This honest heart-warming account of wanting to succeed with a life they have long dreamed about is both humorous and thought-provoking. It is never easy to make a decision such as the one the Stancombs made but it just proves that hard-work and determination lead to success.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone considering a move to that long-lost Island in the middle of no-where or to anyone that has even a small amount of flight and wanderlust about them.

Disclaimer: The link to the book in this post is an affiliate link. That means that if you were to purchase a book by using it we would earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Income earned this way is used to keep Travelling Book Junkie up and running.

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  • Max Boyle says:

    I know from personal experience that Croatia is a beautiful and engaging country, but I found the writing in this book too conversational and colloquial to hold my interest.

    • Interesting thought Max – I enjoyed reading about Vis as an island, finding out more about a community of people but I an intrigued to find out more about Croatia as a whole. Do you have any other book suggestions that would potentially highlight the beauty of Croatia that you have noticed. It is a country that we still have on our list of places to visit so I would love to find out more.

  • Bruce Grove says:

    Contrary to the impression given by Anthony Stancomb in Under a Croatian Sun, Kriket Klub Sir William Hoste was not founded by the author but by a Croatian, Oliver Roki, who was born and grew up in Australia. This isn’t news, having first been reported in the Daily Telegraph as long ago as 2003.

    I’m afraid that the author has invented his association with the club on Vis and in doing so has angered members of the club he claims to have founded. The truth is that the author’s claims (founding the club, ringing round for equipment, applying for a development grant, procuring the services of a coach, organizing practice, arranging the transportation of an artificial pitch, organizing the clubs first opponents, and even umpiring and scoring matches) were the work of other people and not the author at all.

    That the cricket story presented in his book seems plausible can be attributed to the author having used details from previously-published accounts of the club’s formation, including the book The Ascent of Mount Hum.

    • Bruce, thank you for this information. I was asked to read and review the book from a literary perspective but I can appreciate that I should have perhaps looked further into the facts surrounding it. As a reviewer I have taken the information at face value, naive perhaps, but I didn’t know that there was any controversy surrounding the details. As a book, it is still interesting to read about an Englishman upping sticks and heading to a relatively unknown area of Croatia but I have learnt from this and will, in the future, make sure that the facts are also correct, if that is what the book is trying to convey.

      For those that would like to find out more about the Vis Cricket club I have attached a link to the Vis Cricket Club – http://www.viscricket.com/ and a link to the Telegraph article mentioned from 2003 – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/croatia/1425399/Croatian-island-re-discovers-its-history-and-takes-up-cricket.html.

      • Bruce Grove says:

        No criticism of yourself was intended, and I don’t think anyone can be blamed for taking the book at face value. I just wanted to shed a little light on the real story.

        The Vis Cricket Club website has a history page that makes for fun/interesting reading. And the Telegraph piece is a pretty good summary of the back story as well.

        • I appreciate you bringing the facts to the attention of both myself and my readers. Whilst this is a well-written account of moving from the UK and embracing life in a small community in a different country, for many people, facts are still important if they are reading a book based on real happenings.

  • Thanks for the new discovery! I’ve decided to add Croatia to my Europe adventure next spring, I’ve never been and would love to read of it before I visit. Can’t wait to read it!

    • We still have Croatia on our list of places to visit but after reading this book it definitely moved up that list! Vis sounds like such a lovely place I know I would need to spend a few days there relaxing. Hope you enjoy reading it! 🙂

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  • Carole Llewellyn says:

    A. Anthony and Ivana left Fulham to move to Vis.
    A dream I share.
    One day…….

    • Me too Carole! Do you have a particular place in mind? 🙂

      • Carole Llewellyn says:

        Yes most definately Vis.
        In my dreams I live in solitude on Bisevo. For company in the summer months I’d work in a beach bar on the far side of the island.
        We can all dream…

        • That sounds absolutely beautiful – we have yet to visit Vis but after reading Anthony’s novel I am desperate to see the Island for myself. I love the idea of living in an authentic location where I am mixing with a local population of people, developing in their cultural ways and becoming part of their community. I envisaged living somewhere remote in Italy because I have visited so frequently but there are so many charming and appealing places around Europe to choose from it is difficult to make that final decision.

          • Carole Llewellyn says:

            If you take a look at http://www.wearactive.com you will see why I love Vis so much and keep going back. Xania and Craig have made many friends on the island since living there for the last 8 years and treat all their guests to a slice of island life. Kayaking into caves and deserted beaches, biking through grape vines, or hiking historic routes used by locals as the only way to get from one side of the island to the other are all wonderful ways to explore and get to know the island. I love it.

          • Thanks for the link Carole – we will definitely be looking to visit Vis in the near future.

            I would also like to take this opportunity to say congratulations – we ran our draw yesterday after the close of our competition and I would like to announce yourself as our lucky winner. Well Done! Can I ask that you send you address details to travellingbookjunkie@gmail.com and I will get a copy of Under A Croatian Sun sent out to you. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 🙂

  • Karla Fritz says:

    Q: Which area of London did Anthony and Ivana leave behind for their new life in Vis?
    A: They left behind Fulham in South West London.

    Lovely review by the way. Made me want to pack up and move.

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