Reading Carol Drinkwater‘s The Olive Farm was like taking a holiday in the sun, which I desperately needed in the middle of a long, cold Midwestern winter. I could feel the heat of the sun, smell the earth, the flowers and see the magnificent vistas of the South of France and pretend I was there sipping wine instead of slipping on ice.
Like the authors of those excellent, engaging books, Carol Drinkwater and her husband Michel buy a run-down property in a sunny southern climate as a retreat from their usual lives. Theirs is an olive farm in the south of France, near Cannes. The main house has a moldy pool, a leaky roof, broken windows and no kitchen. The olive trees themselves are neglected. But the bones of the place are solid.
The book spans the first several years of their live at the farm—years in which they marry and Carol adjusts to being a step-mother, pet owner, home owner. Renovations go slowly, and problems abound. Contractors fleece them and/or do sub-standard work. Finances are tight and they risk losing the farm several times. They get burgled. But they endure, the vision they had for the house and farm begins to materialize. The last stage in the process is the reinvigoration of the olive farm and the pressing of their own olive oil.
Drinkwater is not funny and dry like Peter Mayles, or food-focused like Frances Mayles. But she is an honest writer and I loved her candor about her life, its difficulties, joys and sorrows of which she has plenty. Although she is a well-known British actress, there was very little in the book about her acting, which I thought was appropriate and again, kept the tone “real.”
I had this book on my shelf for several years and pulled it out just at the right time. It is still winter in Wisconsin, but Carol Drinkwater gave me a taste of the hot summer to come. Just maybe I’ll dust off my passport for sunny France.