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The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France

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When Carol Drinkwater and her fiancé, cute Michel, are given the opportunity to purchase ten acres of an abandoned olive farm in the South of France, they find the region's splendor impossible to resist. Using their entire savings as a down payment, the couple embark on an adventure that brings them in contact with the charming countryside of Provence, its querulous person When Carol Drinkwater and her fiancé, cute Michel, are given the opportunity to purchase ten acres of an abandoned olive farm in the South of France, they find the region's splendor impossible to resist. Using their entire savings as a down payment, the couple embark on an adventure that brings them in contact with the charming countryside of Provence, its querulous personalities, petty bureaucracies, and extraordinary wildlife. From the glamour of Cannes and the Isles of L&eacuterins to the charm of her own small plot of land-which she transforms from overgrown weeds into a thriving farm-Drinkwater triumphantly relates how she realized her dream of a peaceful, meaningful life. "A fantasy come true, as it will be for many of the readers who yearn to experience the magic of southern France." (Austin Chronicle) "Good-humored and well written." (The Washington Post Book World) "Following [Drinkwater's] engaging story is like driving the hairpin turns that climb the hills above the French Riviera: the views are breathtaking, the blind curves frightening, and the safe arrival to the top a joyous relief." (Library Journal)


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When Carol Drinkwater and her fiancé, cute Michel, are given the opportunity to purchase ten acres of an abandoned olive farm in the South of France, they find the region's splendor impossible to resist. Using their entire savings as a down payment, the couple embark on an adventure that brings them in contact with the charming countryside of Provence, its querulous person When Carol Drinkwater and her fiancé, cute Michel, are given the opportunity to purchase ten acres of an abandoned olive farm in the South of France, they find the region's splendor impossible to resist. Using their entire savings as a down payment, the couple embark on an adventure that brings them in contact with the charming countryside of Provence, its querulous personalities, petty bureaucracies, and extraordinary wildlife. From the glamour of Cannes and the Isles of L&eacuterins to the charm of her own small plot of land-which she transforms from overgrown weeds into a thriving farm-Drinkwater triumphantly relates how she realized her dream of a peaceful, meaningful life. "A fantasy come true, as it will be for many of the readers who yearn to experience the magic of southern France." (Austin Chronicle) "Good-humored and well written." (The Washington Post Book World) "Following [Drinkwater's] engaging story is like driving the hairpin turns that climb the hills above the French Riviera: the views are breathtaking, the blind curves frightening, and the safe arrival to the top a joyous relief." (Library Journal)

30 review for The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leftbanker

    It begins with her spoiled progeny whining because they don’t have a swimming pool…right now! The tone is set. More lifestyle porn. Jesus, another A Year in Provence, Under the Tuscan Sun -esque memoir of an over-privileged hack who buys an old place in a foreign land and fixes it up. She makes it appear in this book that she is so original in wanting to buy a romantic old farm in France. Who the hell wouldn’t want to do this if they had the resources? She acts like she is such a maverick for cho It begins with her spoiled progeny whining because they don’t have a swimming pool…right now! The tone is set. More lifestyle porn. Jesus, another A Year in Provence, Under the Tuscan Sun -esque memoir of an over-privileged hack who buys an old place in a foreign land and fixes it up. She makes it appear in this book that she is so original in wanting to buy a romantic old farm in France. Who the hell wouldn’t want to do this if they had the resources? She acts like she is such a maverick for choosing to live in a country mansion in the south of France. This book should be subtitled: Every noun must have an adjective, every verb an adverb. The hoariest prose I've ever stumbled across. She is trying much too hard to make this a creative writing exercise, and why would anyone do that in the first place because "creative writing" of the self-conscious variety is rubbish. All of it. The whole tone of the memoir is that of we the readers must care so very dearly for the people involved. Spoiler alert: I don't, not even a little before I began, and after a few pages of hearing about the lives of the privileged and solipsistic, I have zero interest in her dramatic personae. I had never heard of her and I've never seen anything she has appeared in, so I wasn't the least bit invested in her as a celebrity, which shouldn't matter at all to anyone, but I'm sure this sold most of the books. Here she is talking about her idyllic wonderland: And, in among all of these gregarious and bohemian activities, I slip away unnoticed to a cool stone room of my own, lined head to foot with books, sprawling with maps and dictionaries, switch on my computer and settle down peacefully to write. Maybe I’m being too snarky but it sure seems to me like she could use the practice…and an editor. Can you bear to read more? “Summer is slipping away, like the silent falling of petals [Don’t petals fall in spring?]. Everyone has left, and we are on our own. The swallows gather, autumn sets in, rustic and rather rainy.” Horrible, n'est ce pas? And for someone who admits to speaking poor French, she loves to litter her writing with words from her second, poorly-spoken language, as if her random mais ouis and zut alors give her French street cred. There is a bit about olives to be learned but it just isn’t worth the effort.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    This memoir ranks up there as one of my favorites of the year. The author is the actress who played Helen Herriot on the BBC TV production of All Creatures Great and Small. By her own admission, she isn't a calm person. At times in the writing you can sense that she is a little dramatic in her behavior but overall I was surprised by how calm the book is. By calm, I don't mean boring, but its not a page-by-page accounting of an actresses harried life,love affairs and narcissism. Instead it is a w This memoir ranks up there as one of my favorites of the year. The author is the actress who played Helen Herriot on the BBC TV production of All Creatures Great and Small. By her own admission, she isn't a calm person. At times in the writing you can sense that she is a little dramatic in her behavior but overall I was surprised by how calm the book is. By calm, I don't mean boring, but its not a page-by-page accounting of an actresses harried life,love affairs and narcissism. Instead it is a well-written, entertaining account of the purchase of an olive farm in the South of France. Drinkwater captures the culture and beauty of France and mirrors it with her lovely prose. I hope to read some of her other books as well. 4.5 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    I started off this story with somewhat mixed feelings, not sure it was my kind of story, but very quickly I came to enjoy Carol Drinkwater's gentle writing style. The story is fascinating, her journey to southern France with her partner, Michel, and their efforts to turn an abandoned estate and olive farm into their dream home. All the while both must try and earn the money to buy the home, maintain it and live in it. Very well-told, draws you in very quickly and makes you emotionally involved w I started off this story with somewhat mixed feelings, not sure it was my kind of story, but very quickly I came to enjoy Carol Drinkwater's gentle writing style. The story is fascinating, her journey to southern France with her partner, Michel, and their efforts to turn an abandoned estate and olive farm into their dream home. All the while both must try and earn the money to buy the home, maintain it and live in it. Very well-told, draws you in very quickly and makes you emotionally involved with their lives. There are two other books in this series, I will definitely have to get them to see how the work progresses for Carol, Michel and their companions and 3 dogs.. :) Loved it..

  4. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    The Olive Farm was a feast for the senses. Drinkwater's descriptions are so vivid that you are transported to Provence with its blue skies, fragrant fruits and flowers and rocky soil. Drinkwater has a love affair with the land and a love affair with a Frenchman, both of which are excellent fodder for a story. It was an easy and very enjoyable read. The Olive Farm was a feast for the senses. Drinkwater's descriptions are so vivid that you are transported to Provence with its blue skies, fragrant fruits and flowers and rocky soil. Drinkwater has a love affair with the land and a love affair with a Frenchman, both of which are excellent fodder for a story. It was an easy and very enjoyable read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hilda Hansen

    Carol Drinkwater's account of bringing an olive farm in the south of France back to life is so rich in detail and characterization that I feel as though I am experiencing it with her. Her prose draws me in and holds my attention so powerfully that I cannot wait for the next page. And the next. And the next. We meet her fiance, with whom she has purchased the farm, their dogs, his daughters, his parents, her parents, and their eccentric, able accomplices in restoring the farm to productivity, Ren Carol Drinkwater's account of bringing an olive farm in the south of France back to life is so rich in detail and characterization that I feel as though I am experiencing it with her. Her prose draws me in and holds my attention so powerfully that I cannot wait for the next page. And the next. And the next. We meet her fiance, with whom she has purchased the farm, their dogs, his daughters, his parents, her parents, and their eccentric, able accomplices in restoring the farm to productivity, Rene and Quashia, and feel that they are old friends as the book draws to a close. I read the book practically straight through over three days, pausing only for such mundane things as meals, appointments and sleep, always eager to return to the verbal feast Miss Drinkwater serves up by the bucketful. I first read The Olive Farm 5 or 6 years ago, yet it is so fresh and rich that it seems as though I have never before picked up the book. I look forward to reading it again in a few years.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    It was a sappy memoir of her life and the drama she has with the farm. If you are expecting to read about the farm and its transformation this is not the book for you; which is a pity because it could've been done with this book. I wish someone would write a memoir of a place where the place is the center of the story. It was a sappy memoir of her life and the drama she has with the farm. If you are expecting to read about the farm and its transformation this is not the book for you; which is a pity because it could've been done with this book. I wish someone would write a memoir of a place where the place is the center of the story.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    It was okay and I liked it enough to bump up my rating to three stars but this book will be DNF for me. Nothing against the author or the story as far as I went, but I got enough out of the story that I just cannot pick it up again. I am returning it to the library. I probably should not have done as much on-line research as I did. It killed my desire to finish.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Laurie Weima

    Loved it Want to move to France!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir about an actress and her fiance buying an abandoned villa and its overgrown grounds full of olive trees. Drinkwater writes so colorfully about her experiences, transporting the reader to this beautiful region. It's similar in its angle (foreigner in foreign land; the quirky country people, run-down house, odd and frustrating ways of doing business) to A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, but it's much more readable. Drinkwater is a natural story teller. I I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir about an actress and her fiance buying an abandoned villa and its overgrown grounds full of olive trees. Drinkwater writes so colorfully about her experiences, transporting the reader to this beautiful region. It's similar in its angle (foreigner in foreign land; the quirky country people, run-down house, odd and frustrating ways of doing business) to A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, but it's much more readable. Drinkwater is a natural story teller. Interestingly, when they were there in the 1980s (it's never quite clear in the book when this took place, but Google Carol Drinkwater and you can find out more precisely) Drinkwater mentions the mindset of "Le Pen" and his brand of conservatism summed up as more or less keeping France French, i.e, keeping out immigrants. In 2017, the mindset was alive in well in his daughter, Marine, who ran for president (and lost). It was insightful that the French depended on a cheap North African workforce to toil in their fields yet never considered them citizens or worthy of respect. How deep those feelings of resentment, sown for decades, probably longer, does influence the world today.... Aside from that, both Carol and Michel worked so hard themselves to revive Appassionata and thank goodness there are dreamers like that in the world to do that and give the rest of us dreamers a reality check that such undertakings are truly difficult, expensive undertakings. It all seems worth it in the end. But I never understood how anyone would buy a house without knowing there was running water or electricity! (there was but not for months).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    I read this book because it was recommended in The Ultimate Reading List under the Travel section. Unfortunately, I had read it after very similar books on the list: Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun and Chris Stewart's Driving Over Lemons. Like Mayles, Drinkwater is a foreigner who decides to settle in Provence. Like Stewart, she plunges her life savings into land she tries to make into a working farm. And like Mayes, there's a romantic villa on the property. I read this book because it was recommended in The Ultimate Reading List under the Travel section. Unfortunately, I had read it after very similar books on the list: Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun and Chris Stewart's Driving Over Lemons. Like Mayles, Drinkwater is a foreigner who decides to settle in Provence. Like Stewart, she plunges her life savings into land she tries to make into a working farm. And like Mayes, there's a romantic villa on the property. But I didn't find Drinkwater as engaging a writer as the others--and I have found this is by no means a favored genre. I didn't finish A Year in Provence and I didn't finish The Olive Farm, although I gave it longer than Mayles' book, over a hundred pages before admitting to myself I was bored. I thought Under the Tuscan Sun not only lyrical with sensuous sensory details, but more eloquent about the history and nature surrounding the villa. Drinkwater I often found more purple than lyrical, and writing in first person present does not by itself a literary style make. Chris Stewart was more down-to-earth and charming, and gave me more of a sense of the people and culture surrounding his Spanish farm. I found Drinkwater in comparison rather bland. In so much of this story I felt I'd been there, done that--and better done too.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    Guys, I think we all have a place that we dream about living out our days in. It might be a beach with an umbrella drink in our hands, a huge bookstore with big comfy chairs or a gorgeous mountain vista. For me, I think I want peace and quiet. I love, love, love city living right now but eventually, I'd love a slower pace of life. With this book, I think Ms. Drinkwater has me convinced that an olive farm would be the place to be. The book does drag on in some parts a little bit but I love readin Guys, I think we all have a place that we dream about living out our days in. It might be a beach with an umbrella drink in our hands, a huge bookstore with big comfy chairs or a gorgeous mountain vista. For me, I think I want peace and quiet. I love, love, love city living right now but eventually, I'd love a slower pace of life. With this book, I think Ms. Drinkwater has me convinced that an olive farm would be the place to be. The book does drag on in some parts a little bit but I love reading memoirs of people who have been able to do what they wanted to do with their life so that kept me going. It's most definitely inspirational. Drinkwater paints a gorgeous picture of easy (and sometimes not so easy) living in gorgeous Southern France. This is really a vacation in a book. If you can't get away on vacation this summer, this book is just the prescription for you. Bottom line: this book is a sweet escape! (Also posted at http://abookishaffair.blogspot.com/)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    This was a scrumptious tale of Carol and Michael's attempts to cultivate a pleasant life in their ramshackle rundown olive farm in the South of France. I very much enjoyed it. Carol is a very personable narrator and her descriptions are rich and tasty. Her relationships with her pets, her family, her friends and her neighbours provide many amusing and heartwarming anecdotes and she has a pleasingly warm and self-depricating style. However it is food (not least of course the olive) that is at the he This was a scrumptious tale of Carol and Michael's attempts to cultivate a pleasant life in their ramshackle rundown olive farm in the South of France. I very much enjoyed it. Carol is a very personable narrator and her descriptions are rich and tasty. Her relationships with her pets, her family, her friends and her neighbours provide many amusing and heartwarming anecdotes and she has a pleasingly warm and self-depricating style. However it is food (not least of course the olive) that is at the heart of this tale and is what drew me to the book in the first place. Whilst predominantly an accompaniment to a bigger story, the french fare undoubtedly plays an important role in this production; it riles your tastebuds with stories of fresh lemons and crusty loaves, invokes scents of provincial herbs and pinecone barbecues and positively encourages you to indulge in a glass of red wine and a bowl of olives. All in all, a pretty wonderful epicurean experience.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    I apologise if I am letting my working-class background over-influence me but I rather felt this memoir was about two rich privileged people trying to establish a more graceful way of life funded by others. Carol was writing scripts which her partner was arranging to have filmed (no apparent struggles to have her pitches accepted & when they needed more money he took her on a boat trip to inspire her to write a new story - one day is clearly enough to suggest the locations which will be suitable I apologise if I am letting my working-class background over-influence me but I rather felt this memoir was about two rich privileged people trying to establish a more graceful way of life funded by others. Carol was writing scripts which her partner was arranging to have filmed (no apparent struggles to have her pitches accepted & when they needed more money he took her on a boat trip to inspire her to write a new story - one day is clearly enough to suggest the locations which will be suitable). As you read the book you think they were probably hoping that her book about their "struggles" would also sell well and help fund further developments. Having said which, the difficulties of trying to restore a derelict property with the help and hindrance of locals was interesting. The farm is in an area of great contrasts and challenges. The writing is engaging, including a mix of facts and personal observations.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    Part of me loved this novel about an actress in a relationship with a French film director who buy a farm in the South of France not far from Cannes. The farm is neglected and needs some serious TLC and they are more than willing to do that. It sounds ideallic, his daughters come to stay and they love it and other family come out to chill out, quaff wine and plan renovations though rose tinted spectacles. She managed with her descriptions to make the reader yearn for foreign climes and whilst no Part of me loved this novel about an actress in a relationship with a French film director who buy a farm in the South of France not far from Cannes. The farm is neglected and needs some serious TLC and they are more than willing to do that. It sounds ideallic, his daughters come to stay and they love it and other family come out to chill out, quaff wine and plan renovations though rose tinted spectacles. She managed with her descriptions to make the reader yearn for foreign climes and whilst not that much was going on storywise and the characters were sketchily drawn I was perfectly happy reading about someone's perfect place, perfect dream. Ultimately that is what in the end I didn't like, although there were some trials and tribulations along the way there never seemed to be a cross word spoken and the perfection of their life, relationship and future in the end seemed too sugar coated. Worth a read for an escape though.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I really, truly wanted to love this book. It was recommended as being in the vein of "Under the Tuscan Sun" which I LOVED so I was very excited to read this. Unfortunately, this book was kind of a let down. Carol Drinkwater's voice is not nearly as compelling as Francis Mayes and the story itself never really caught my imagination. It's not that there weren't compelling memories shared but it felt like she glossed over moments that should have been given more attention, and gave too much attenti I really, truly wanted to love this book. It was recommended as being in the vein of "Under the Tuscan Sun" which I LOVED so I was very excited to read this. Unfortunately, this book was kind of a let down. Carol Drinkwater's voice is not nearly as compelling as Francis Mayes and the story itself never really caught my imagination. It's not that there weren't compelling memories shared but it felt like she glossed over moments that should have been given more attention, and gave too much attention to other inconsequential moments. I never really connected to her story the way I did to Mayes' memoir so I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as some others I've read in the same vein.

  16. 5 out of 5

    E.J. Bauer

    Let's face it, I'm always ready to read about life in a new country and this memoir had me captivated from page one. Add the fact that the author had a leading role in one of my very favourite TV series, All Creatures Great and Small and writes so beautifully about her tiny corner of France and I found I had a book I couldn't put down. While many memoirs about relocation follow the gentle rhythm of life's up and downs, The Olive Farm contrasts the lows of grief, the harshness of fire and storm a Let's face it, I'm always ready to read about life in a new country and this memoir had me captivated from page one. Add the fact that the author had a leading role in one of my very favourite TV series, All Creatures Great and Small and writes so beautifully about her tiny corner of France and I found I had a book I couldn't put down. While many memoirs about relocation follow the gentle rhythm of life's up and downs, The Olive Farm contrasts the lows of grief, the harshness of fire and storm and the very real possibility of bankruptcy with the joys of a new and intense love, the delicate unfolding of the seasons and a deep respect for the earth and its bounties.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elise

    For one already in love with Tuscany and food and with an obsession for home improvement The Olive Farm was a somewhat gluttonous experience. In the spirit of Under the Tuscan Sun, the story follows a woman and her partner through the experience of falling in love with a run-down Italian villa, fixing it up, and learning to live in the local community. Not a deep read, but what I needed to get away for awhile and feel some sunshine.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nanci

    This was a very easy read and while it was a bit sappy, it was a good book to read on a day while feeling "under the weather". The writing is very descriptive, a bit over the top for me, but does accomplish the feeling of mini-vacation to the South of France. Very similar to Under the Tuscan Sun. This was a very easy read and while it was a bit sappy, it was a good book to read on a day while feeling "under the weather". The writing is very descriptive, a bit over the top for me, but does accomplish the feeling of mini-vacation to the South of France. Very similar to Under the Tuscan Sun.

  19. 5 out of 5

    C

    Self-indulgent, boring, whiny.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This is the book to read if you cannot get away for a summer holiday this year. Carol Drinkwater writes a memoir that is a sumptuous as it is diverting Who has not wanted to move abroad and live from the land? You can feel the sun and smell the sea on every page. I have always held a little soft spot in my heart for her as the very first Helen Herriot in All creatures Great and Small and this book allows us to follow her and her German born Partner (later Husband) Michel as they take the massive This is the book to read if you cannot get away for a summer holiday this year. Carol Drinkwater writes a memoir that is a sumptuous as it is diverting Who has not wanted to move abroad and live from the land? You can feel the sun and smell the sea on every page. I have always held a little soft spot in my heart for her as the very first Helen Herriot in All creatures Great and Small and this book allows us to follow her and her German born Partner (later Husband) Michel as they take the massive risk to buy a French Olive Farm in the South of France. Their courtship is fresh and very new, but their love and hopefulness spur them on into a situation neither seems fully cognisant of when they arrive with a car filled with mattresses and other bits and bobs from Carol's London home. Situated in the hills above Canne, Apassionata is as dilapidated and neglected as any place can be and yet, she, Michel and his two teen daughters from his first marriage bowl up there to start work on the place even before a single, tile, shutter or gnarled olive tree is formally theirs. The addition of the morbidly obese pet dog Pamela is an added concern that Carol was also unprepared for. She (Pamela) is ever on the cusp of a cardiac calamity as the heat and her considerable heft see Carol worrying much about the capacious appetites of the greedy pooch. Carol has passable French, but feels isolated from the girls, insecure in their presence as the true magnitude of the task they have taken on dawns. They have no beds, no experience and most pressing of all in the heat of a Riviera Summer, no water supply. She is in love with the romantic ideal of a haven for artists and artisans and a writer's garret and so the challenge is to make the reality mould to her mind’s eye. This is a book about the history of Olives, a book about love and passion and also about the South of France. Taken separately wood make a nice read, but together provide richness and depths to what might have been a formulaic book. Carol and Michel weather many a calamity both natural and Financial but it is Ms Drinkwater’s skill with description which really lends itself to a book such as thisand I purposefully read the book slowly and with intention , to fully imagine, the sights, sounds and tastes of these first two years at Apassionata and to experience ( by proxy), every glass of wine, every salad, and fish consumed, which are described with a languid but vivid style. It is obvious why Carol has become such a prolific writer of books and screen works with such a wonderfully rich place to be inspiration and sanctuary from the rigours of the real world. Her use of vocabulary is rich and plummy but still you see her as “one of us” as she struggles with the mundane and the mad. Her years as a nomadic explorer and seeker are evident in her reference points, but it is the calming affect of her one true love and the place itself that means she finally wants to put down roots and what grounds her. The trials and tribulations of trying to maintain day jobs whilst a money pit sits on a hill softly beckoning is described with honesty. Things are not always idyllic, but they are always picturesque. Description of flora and fauna is to be expected, but here it is so beautifully transported into my.mind’s eye as to be almost projected. A cast of helpers and hinderers also pepper the book, all of them interesting; along with a number of canines who make every effort to take up residence in both villa and Carol’s heart. Soon land, people and assumed teenage charges are adapting to Carol and she to them, until a mutually satisfactory equilibrium is settled upon. I thoroughly enjoyed the book which makes me want to visit the area myself and taste that glorious golden oily elixir from her olives for myself!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    I have long been a fan of Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, and admit I couldn’t warm up to the actress who replaced her after Drinkwater left the series in 1985. When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it is Carol whom I pictures as Helen. It was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking in those books. Combining one of my favorite actresses with one of my favorite genres (expatriates-in-paradise genre) it was a I have long been a fan of Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, and admit I couldn’t warm up to the actress who replaced her after Drinkwater left the series in 1985. When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it is Carol whom I pictures as Helen. It was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking in those books. Combining one of my favorite actresses with one of my favorite genres (expatriates-in-paradise genre) it was a sweet treat – finding Drinkwater had penned The Olive Farm. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm. Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they eventually married four years later. Eventually they find this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata - meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place. "I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm," Carol Drinkwater writes. "The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land." After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs! Carol, Michel and his teenaged daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they are a close knit family along with a number of stray dogs, good friends among the local citizenry. The experiences she writes about were fancinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…..it’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally. Eventually Carol took language classes to improve her French and she is, as you may imagine, quite fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above all…love. If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol's musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I don't know what why I enjoy reading these types of travelogues/memoirs specifically in the summer, but I do. They give me inspiration for home and garden improvements and enthuse me to do all the things. This is a memoir about a couple who relocate to France, buy a dilapidated farm, and cultivate an olive crop. The farmhouse is in dire disrepair but other than a mention of sleeping on a mattress on the floor and buying a tiny refrigerator, there was no real mention of renovating it at all. My I don't know what why I enjoy reading these types of travelogues/memoirs specifically in the summer, but I do. They give me inspiration for home and garden improvements and enthuse me to do all the things. This is a memoir about a couple who relocate to France, buy a dilapidated farm, and cultivate an olive crop. The farmhouse is in dire disrepair but other than a mention of sleeping on a mattress on the floor and buying a tiny refrigerator, there was no real mention of renovating it at all. My mind boggled when they bought thousands and thousands of francs worth of plants for the garden rather than fixing the (lack of) roof or the crumbling walls. At one point they had eight guests staying over and the place was filthy and falling down around them, but the garden was near perfect and the swimming pool was up and running so... happy days, haha! I enjoyed the way this was written. Lots of purple prose and flowery turns of phrase, which I honestly don't mind in books like this. As much as I enjoyed it, I don't think I'll read the others in her little memoir series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sally906

    Carol Drinkwater, know better to me as the actress who played Mrs Herriot in the TV show, “All Creatures Great and Small,” gives her readers a peek at a couple of years of her life as she and her fiancée pursue a dream of owning, and running an olive farm. A dilapidated and run-down olive farm near Cannes in the south of France. At the time of purchase, Carol’s fiancée, Michael, a French producer, was working out of Paris, while Carol was still acting, mostly in England and Australia. In between Carol Drinkwater, know better to me as the actress who played Mrs Herriot in the TV show, “All Creatures Great and Small,” gives her readers a peek at a couple of years of her life as she and her fiancée pursue a dream of owning, and running an olive farm. A dilapidated and run-down olive farm near Cannes in the south of France. At the time of purchase, Carol’s fiancée, Michael, a French producer, was working out of Paris, while Carol was still acting, mostly in England and Australia. In between earning a living they follow their dream which often meant, for Carol, overnight dashes to the continent between shows. The book is the first in a series and revolves around the dramas connected to their purchase of the farm and their even more increasingly frantic attempts to tame the farm and renovate the crumbling and insect-infested house with no running water and a leaking roof into a home. Carol and Peter are newly in love, and still starry-eyed, and the property certainly challenges the two of them to work as a team. Is putting their whole life savings down on a dream extreme recklessness or inspired perception? Carol describes their ups and downs, and there are a lot of downs, some very emotional downs; and also shares with the reader the characters they meet on the way, everyone from the inn owner, the rich old lady from whom they buy the farm and the amazing variety of workers and contractors that help them to fix the place. There are also some very interesting description of olives, and their amazing history. There are more books in the series which is good because just when it looks like maybe the corner had turned, you still weren’t sure – the story stopped, obviously to be continued….

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I would actually give this book a 3.5 rating. When will Goodreads allow us to do this? Carol Drinkwater will go to her grave known as the actress who played James Herriot's girlfriend and wife in the beloved tv series "All Creatures Great and Small". She has actually had a a very varied career, as an actress and a writer. In "The Olive Farm", the first in a series of books, Carol and her significant other, Michel Noll, German-born television director and producer, decide to purchase a dilapidated I would actually give this book a 3.5 rating. When will Goodreads allow us to do this? Carol Drinkwater will go to her grave known as the actress who played James Herriot's girlfriend and wife in the beloved tv series "All Creatures Great and Small". She has actually had a a very varied career, as an actress and a writer. In "The Olive Farm", the first in a series of books, Carol and her significant other, Michel Noll, German-born television director and producer, decide to purchase a dilapidated olive farm in the hills above Cannes, France. Even though the house, named Apassionata, is almost uninhabitable, with no discernible source for water, Carol and Michel draw on every possible money source to purchase it. They are neophyte part-time homeowners and totally in the dark about how to care for a farm. Many problems arise over the next few years, ranging from a leaky roof to disastrous weather to health issues. But thanks to help from neighbors and friends, they gradually make progress in making this corner of Provence their home. Carol becomes fascinated by the history of the olive tree and weaves this into her story, giving it a sense of grounding in the long history of the region. If you have enjoyed "Under the Tuscan Sun" by Frances Mayes, or Peter Mayle's "A Good year", you will probably like "The Olive Farm". Many of us fantasize about moving to a beautiful place and starting a new life. Carol Drinkwater shares this adventure, but makes sure the reader understands that even Paradise will have some problems. She is a good storyteller with an eye for detail, but at times the reader just wants to tell her to stop complaining so much.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chana

    Suffers from a bit of idealism, like with all the wonderful meals outside. I've eaten outside and unless the South of France is bereft of the normal wasps and spiders that most of us hate eating with, the meals couldn't be as wonderful as she makes them sound, could they? Maybe she had all the proper plants, citronella candles, etc to drive the buggies away. Never had much success with it myself. But the idealism also makes the book pleasurable. She seems to be a happy person by nature, an optimi Suffers from a bit of idealism, like with all the wonderful meals outside. I've eaten outside and unless the South of France is bereft of the normal wasps and spiders that most of us hate eating with, the meals couldn't be as wonderful as she makes them sound, could they? Maybe she had all the proper plants, citronella candles, etc to drive the buggies away. Never had much success with it myself. But the idealism also makes the book pleasurable. She seems to be a happy person by nature, an optimist. She is also in love which can make even outdoor eating bearable, maybe. Her optimism runs thick throughout the book. She and her love Michel buy a tumbledown farm in the South of France. They don't have much money and have quite a lot of finagling to do to make this work. They become Olive Farmers and their success is sweet, even inspiring. Now don't laugh, but after everything I just said about eating outside, I decided my yard really needed work and I wanted to make pleasant sitting and EATING AREAS in my yard. We are having a spate of nice weather in Seattle so I've been weeding and visualizing what kind beautiful yard I might have. The reading experience was about 3 1/2 stars but because her writing inspired me to work on my own yard and visualize beauty I bumped the score up to a 4. Nice to be inspired, thank you!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I read this about 10 years ago and enjoyed it tremendously. Every once in a while, I dip back into it, when I want to dream. This is one of my top comfort reads. She satisfies the yearning I have of going "home" and buying my own olive farm. (I can do it without all the hard work.) Recommended for anyone who ever dreamt of their own “olive farm”. I read this about 10 years ago and enjoyed it tremendously. Every once in a while, I dip back into it, when I want to dream. This is one of my top comfort reads. She satisfies the yearning I have of going "home" and buying my own olive farm. (I can do it without all the hard work.) Recommended for anyone who ever dreamt of their own “olive farm”.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dena

    Disappointing. Was hoping for an "Under The Tuscan Sun" book and this wasn't it. Beautiful writing but I was bored at the beginning, started skipping big chunks in the middle and couldn't bring myself to finish it. Disappointing. Was hoping for an "Under The Tuscan Sun" book and this wasn't it. Beautiful writing but I was bored at the beginning, started skipping big chunks in the middle and couldn't bring myself to finish it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I foolishly bought this book because I love Carole Drinkwater, as an actress. Sadly, it turned out to be boring and rambling. I finally had enough when she returned her dog to the pound.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Loved this book so much!!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Denise Tarasuk

    Fantastic! I loved every detail of this book. Of course, this has me asking for more. Thank goodness, my husband found a used copy in England and surprised me. Such a delight. A joy to read!

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