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Return to the Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater

Return to the Olive Farm

Biography / Autobiography   The Real World   Travel   eBook Favourites   

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July 2010 Editor's Choice.

Continuing the story of Carol Drinkwater’s beloved Olive Farm. After returning from 18 months travelling around the Mediterranean Carol discovers that her dream of running an organic farm is threatened by nature and by the demands of market forces. Here she tells of the ups and downs her, seemingly idyllic, life throws her way. Always a joy to read and despite the challenges she still makes you want to run off and find your own ramshackle farm to turn around.

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Dear Reader,

I have been fortunate enough to have published all five of Carol Drinkwater’s memoirs of life on her beloved Provencal olive farm, Appassionata. Often categorised as travel books, they are in fact more like ‘settlement’ books, describing in vibrant prose the love – even the intoxication – you can feel for a particular place. The five titles form a spellbinding series of memoirs, but in this the sixth and final volume, Carol has exceed her own stellar standards.

In Return to the Olive Farm, Carol Drinkwater returns with a changed perspective about the cultivation of olives as a consequence of her travels. The responsibilities (and headaches) of property ownership have been waiting for her. What story about France is complete without a baffling and frustrating encounter with the roles and regulations of French bureaucracy, complicated by the additional imposition of rules and regulations required by the European Union? The use of asbestos as insulation, and the couple's inability to overcome obstructions and cleanse the property of a small amount of the material, is at the heart of this story about the poisons we use and are unable to dispense with.

This book is more than the story of making a home; it describes the search for solutions. Just as cultivating her olives made Carol a farmer and gave her a new relationship to a small place on earth, her travels to Spain and Lebanon have made her an ecologist, aware of the preciousness of natural resources. The bee colony that has regularly summered at Appassionata has been decimated while she was away. Shocked, she discovers that insecticide sprayed on the olive trees has poisoned the bees and devastated both the health of François, one of the beekeepers, and his livelihood. Can she spray her trees against the destructive olive fly knowing that the chemical is also killing the bees?

Uneasiness runs through this last book in the series in which there is the shadow of death in paradise – if the lives of bees and trees can be numbered. The insecticide pooling in the outbuilding near the sprayer gives her pause. Three of her neighbours have died from the same heart problem. You are left to wonder if these deaths are from a kind of poisoning. Carol's desire to avoid spraying leads her into a deal with a young farmer who claims he can bring a parasitical African fly to her that preys upon the olive fly. Tests on the safety of the use of these flies and their effectiveness are now in trials by the government. The question that underlies this all is "Under such circumstances can Appassionata still be home"?

Carol and her husband Michel, though frequently disappointed by setbacks, can hardly be called defeated. They have embarked with resolve on a new experiment on their farm, and Carol truly seems to have returned home as the story ends. She is no less in love and may be more settled than in any time in the past. This is a life-affirming story, one in which Carol takes stock of her life and the turns it has taken, and the reader roots for her all the way.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Samson
Weidenfeld & Nicolson

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Return to the Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater

After almost two years of solitary travelling, Carol Drinkwater returns home to her olive farm in Provence to find that France is at the forefront of an organic revolution. 2 per cent of French farming has gone 'bio', become organic, and others are following. Consumers are waking up to the dangers of processed foods, while back in the Midi the traditional farmers, Carol's neighbours, are dejected.

Spraying their crops guaranteed larger yields as well as fruits not blighted by insects. It takes three years of hard toil to gain a 'Bio' ticket...why bother? Several organisations are calling upon Provencal farmers to offer their holdings as experimental ground for pest control. Should Carol's farm be included, or is this a brave new world beyond her organic dreams? Olive farming at Appassionata is halted.

Quashia, the gardener, is not pleased: 'We must spray!' He threatens to quit, and sets off for a three-month sabbatical. The daily setbacks and joys of life on the olive farm unfold as Carol digs deeper into the crises facing us, particularly those living off the land. In this sixth volume of her acclaimed series she turns to beekeeping and the production of her own honey.

Carol has long dreamed of an alternative way of life, fresh produce, care of the earth. But when her findings throw up shocking facts, should she ignore these discoveries, take them further or stay within the boundaries of her farm?


' honest and truthful story that leaves the reader still wanting more'

'a lot of its attraction for me stems from the honesty of the writing, the attention to detail, the intensity of the writer's relationship with the land, the willingness to take risks, the constant interest in what other local farmers do, the lack of fear when entering traditionally male-dominated arenas, the ability to deal with recalcitrant, inebriated builders with good humour and grace!! Above all you feel like you're observing a very intimate moment in someone else's life...'

'Drinkwater writes with humanity, humour and heartfelt passion about the things that really matter to her.'

'In Return to the Olive Farm... [Carol] recounts her confrontations with big business, local authorities, inebriated Portuguese builders and a formidable asbestos inspector with her trademark humour and humanity.'

About the Author

Carol Drinkwater

Carol Drinkwater was our Guest Editor in May 2011 - click here - to see the books that inspired her writing.

Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award-winning actress who is best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small. She is also the author of over twenty books, both fiction and non-fiction. Her quartet of memoirs set on her olive farm in the south of France have sold over a million copies worldwide and her solo journey round the Mediterranean in search of the Olive tree's mythical secrets inspired a five-part documentary film series, The Olive Route. Carol lives in the south of France where she is writing her next novel.

Author Photo © Michel Noll

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Book Info

Publication date

8th July 2010


Carol Drinkwater

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Weidenfeld & Nicolson


304 pages


Biography / Autobiography
The Real World
eBook Favourites

Travel writing



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