The White Umbrella

“Mr B, a wiry little man of fifty with white hair, was sitting in the back of a big white Land Rover when he saw the donkey. It was early evening and the dense rush-hour traffic in Peshawar was moving at a snail’s pace – which was just as well, for Mr B suddenly opened the door, leaped down onto the road and, without a word, sprinted away between the carts and lorries, the buses and the motorcycles.”

For Mr B it was love at first sight: when he saw the tiny donkey being abused by its owner, he knew he had to come to her rescue. He called her Pavlova (on account of her long legs) and knew that their destinies were now entwined. There was no way his film crew was going to fly them both back to London, so Mr B quite sensibly decides that they will travel overland—and what a trip it runs out to be!  He leaves his film crew in Pakistan and embarks on a journey, donkey in tow, across Iran, through Turkey, into Germany and France to bring her home to suburban London. Enroute, they encounter drug smugglers, carpet salesmen and hosts of every variety, until they finally hitch a lift from Hector, an aristocratic Brit who drives a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, in which the two eccentric Englishmen successfully smuggle Pavlova across The Channel. This is one of those small and apparently “lightweight” books you begin with modest expectations and finish with genuine delight. It has all the characteristics of the best British prose: the wry understatement, the love of travel and adventure, the unremitting affection for animals of all kinds. We loved it.

“To the list of beloved tales about loyal dogs and freckle-faced boys, graying spinsters and inscrutable cats, even winsome elephants and empathetic caretakers, add the late British art critic Sewell’s sweetly endearing story of a man and his donkey, wittily illustrated by Sally Ann Lasson.” — Booklist Review

“A beautifully written book which should become a classic.” – The Times (London)

“There is constant pleasure in Sewell’s prose: the elegance of phrase, the wry humor and the clarity of insight.” – The Independent on Sunday

Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was known as Britain’s most famous and controversial art critic. He wrote for The Tatler and The Evening Standard, appeared on television and radio and was known for his uncompromising views on modern art.  He wrote two bestselling volumes of autobiography – Outsider and Outsider II, and was an Orwell Prize-winning journalist and renowned animal-lover. The White Umbrella was his first novel.

Sally Ann Lasson started work as a cartoonist at The Independent in London in 1986.  She has written extensively for major newspapers and her cartoon books have been translated into several languages.