Eight Crowns to Brno

An Absurd Love Story

Fiction - Humor/Comedy
230 Pages
Reviewed on 12/16/2014
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Author Biography

Paul Michael Simpson is a British Citizen residing in the Czech Republic after spending the last two decades teaching English in some good, and some not so good, Czech language schools before establishing his own translation and proofreading agency. The debut novel Eight Crowns to Brno is the first in a trilogy featuring the characters of James and Ladka and set in Brno.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite

Paul Michael Simpson’s Eight Crowns to Brno is set in Czechoslovakia just as the country is being torn into two. James Craig, a young English teacher, is on the train to Brno, and gets his first experience of exotic Eastern Europe through a young Slovak and a cucumber. The year is 1992 and he is on the way to a job at the Star of Brno language school. His absurd English humor puts him on the wrong footing with his co-teacher Grenville, the grammar specialist. He also struggles with his English language students until he meets Ladka, a blabbermouth who eventually helps him discover the secrets of the city. As he settles in with debonair Scottish teacher Hadrian in an apartment, James develops a special bond/pact with Ladka who has a few secrets of her own waiting to be revealed.

Eight Crowns to Brno is certainly an entertaining and an informative read. As we follow James Craig’s trip to Brno, a little known city in the former Czechoslovakia, now known simply as Czech Republic, it is difficult not to be drawn into his life journey too. Without trying so hard, Paul Michael Simpson manages to come up with three-dimensional characters. It is amazing that all his characters are likable, even those who are decidedly the villains in the story. I find the pace of this narrative pleasant and the timing is excellent. Imagine a young and easygoing Englishman, teaching in a school in Eastern Europe where the most important recent investment is a guitar, surrounded by nosy students and a peculiar breed of teachers. The story, however, ends in an unexpected way that is both funny and profound.

John Hurst

Having been to what was then Czechoslovakia and is now the Czech Republic many times, I bought this book out of curiosity, and have to say it didn’t let me down in the slightest. The book evokes a feel of a time in unfashionable Brno where there were no mobile phones or Internet, while the story sets off at a cracking pace and never lets up.

The book is packed with laughs as the laid back James encounters one mishap after another, and is interwoven with a love story with the feisty Ladka and his realization that he has found his spiritual home. The dialogues rattle along amid a whole host of characters and situations, with an amazing twist at the end.

It says it's part one of a trilogy and I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.


As somebody who moved to Brno to teach in 1997, this book was always going to appeal to me.

Also,this is the first time I have written a review on Amazon, but felt I must. Eight Crowns To Brno is a really well-written book , it is lively, engaging and laugh-out-loud-in-a-public-place funny. An excellent read, I would recommend not just to those of us who taught English abroad in 90s, but to everyone who reads this review.

Arthur Wheeler

Great characters. Lots of laughs. If this is a reflection of Czechoslovakia in early 90s it must have been a great place to live.
Looking forward to the next book.


This finely written novel has a slow-burning start which draws you in gradually before developing into a real page-turner. Whether or not you’ve ever visited the Czech Republic or been an English language teacher, this is a compelling and evocative read, replete with sharp humour, wonderfully drawn characters, non-cheesy romance, and a mature outlook on life. Highly recommended.

Gary. M. Vasey

Yet another book about an English language teacher in Brno I thought (yes there are others). I started the book and by about Chapter 3, had decided this one, though well written, probably wasn’t really my cup of tea – not really my sense of humor. I live in Brno and what might be deemed funny about the Czechs to someone who doesn’t is simply normal to me now. However, I persevered and am really I glad that I did.

Paul Simpson has a talent for writing witty conversation and in Eight Crowns to Brno he succeeds in creating a comedic conversation-driven story that in the end pulls you in and swallows you whole. Initially, the star character, James, came across as a clever know it all jack ass sort of English man always making fast quips and seeing comedy where most people probably wouldn’t. By the end of the book, he is someone you are pulling for and hoping for a good ending. It’s actually the unexpected twist towards the end that makes this book a great read and I cannot say anymore without giving too much away.

The other characters are all very recognizable to any Expat. Misfit Brits and Americans who end up in strange foreign countries teaching English to equally strange and quirky foreigners. They all certainly exist in Brno! Ladka is a well written character who is the perfect foil for James and with her Czech village mentality, pulls James unwittingly into the world of the living turning a character I had little initial sympathy for into someone you actually want to succeed. No mean feat for a first book.

I give the book 4-stars because for me it starts slow but Simpson finds his rhythm and style as the book progresses and by the end his writing is really compelling. I am looking forward to the further adventures of James and Ladka.