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French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  534 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
A story about dirt--and about sun, water, work, elation, and defeat. And about the sublime pleasure of having a little piece of French land all to oneself to till.

Richard Goodman saw the ad in the paper: "SOUTHERN FRANCE: Stone house in Village near Nimes/Avignon/Uzes. 4 BR, 2 baths, fireplace, books, desk, bikes. Perfect for writing, painting, exploring & experiencin
Paperback, 203 pages
Published April 5th 2002 by Algonquin Books (first published 1991)
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Mar 23, 2012 Chad rated it it was ok
French Dirt is 200 pages of decently written garden blog fodder. In theory, it's the story of an American who moves into a rented house in a small village in France with his Dutch girlfriend for a year. It's supposed to be a story about the people he met and his experience with his first garden. And those elements are, indeed, present.

But it isn't much of a story. He went there, he met people, he gardened and he left. It sounds like he a had a great time. But reading this book was like watching
Sep 20, 2013 Meagan rated it liked it
It's hard to know what to say about this little 200 page book that might make you want to read it. I feel like there are two groups of people in relation to this book: those who will find it a charming diversion, and those who will find it a boring waste of time. You can probably figure out which group you belong to just by knowing a bit of what the book is about.

This book is a conversationally-written memoir about an American who moves to a small town in the south of France for a year, and keep
David Schwan
Quick read. The author, an American from New York and his Dutch girlfriend spend a year in a small town in the the south of France (~220 people in the village). After spending a dreary winter there the author decides that what he needs is a garden, and proceeds to get access to a small plot of land. The rest of the book talks about the author working in garden. Fun book to read, not a deep book, gives the reader a nice perspective on a rural French village.
Nov 16, 2014 Martha rated it it was ok
Two young people rent a large house in a Tuscan village and meet the charming French inhabitants who look askance at first - after all the writer is an American - but then take to him and his girlfriend. They are kind. They serve "crusty" bread. They don't care about making money. Richard knows they have much to teach him about the earth and life and how being French is so much more worthy than being an American. He stays a whole year. He returns to NYC and his heart is lightened when he learns ...more
May 20, 2016 Elaine rated it it was amazing
New Yorker Richard Goodman spent a year in a rural village in the south of France, and he chronicled this time period in “French Dirt: the Story of a Garden in the South of France.” Part travel book, part gardening book, total love story, this book was as gripping as dirt under fingernails. St. Sebastien was tiny, lacking even a grocery store, but the community members were warm and welcoming, totally indulgent of this outsider’s sometimes bumbling gardening efforts. Vasquez, the Spanish neighbo ...more
May 31, 2016 Miriam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not enjoy this as much as I hoped to. Perhaps I need to stop reading about people with money to travel and own land--I end up envious and mad at them for their privilege, which they so often do not acknowledge.

This was more like a series of musings or a set of notes for a book that got published anyway. The chapters are short, jump around, and feel disconnected. The book is 200 pages because the chapters begins halfway down the page, there are three blank pages between sections (still pagi
Guy Choate
Mar 06, 2012 Guy Choate rated it really liked it
As Goodman's A New York Memoir inspired me to write, French Dirt inspires me to plant, struggle with, and reap the rewards of a garden. His enthusiasm for life and eagerness to connect with other people in this small village in the south of France reminds me to take a look at my own surroundings, wherever I may be, and appreciate the ground I walk on and the people around me.
Bea Patricia
Jun 29, 2015 Bea Patricia rated it did not like it
Wanted so badly to like this book! Unfortunately it was a little too bland for me, especially in comparison to Mayle's colorful account of Provençal life. Though there are a few platitudes that stood out, they come in sparsely in between the 200 pages. I have no idea what I got out of this book, except a few gardening tips that were overused and repeatedly mentioned as if new information ( it wasn't after a 100 pages of it!). As for his commentary on the culture and people of this little French ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Jody rated it it was amazing
This book was a delight to read--fluid, honest, and fully immersed in the dirt and growing season of France. Goodman was a first-time gardener at the time, as thrilled by lettuce as he was by bamboo he cut for his tomato stakes. This read is a great escape from a busy work-life!
Apr 09, 2016 Katherine rated it really liked it
For some individuals, there's something strangely fulfilling about the simple act of gardening, and this memoir of one man's year in France and the garden he plants and tends is meant for them. Charming, perceptive, well-written, a pleasure to read.
Jan 24, 2010 ElizaBeth rated it liked it
This was a sweet enough book but not very deep or detailed. People who have come off of reading A Year in Provance and want to continue that fuzzy feeling will be disappointed, as will people looking for something in the style of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Linda Robinson
Oct 16, 2014 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing
Sweet, sweet book. My neighbor's daughter left it for me on her last visit, knowing I'd like a story about a rookie gardener. And I sure did. Goodman is a nice man, which is odd enough to read about in this decade, and he was eager to do well in his first garden in the south of France. As he meets his village neighbors, and gets familiar with his vegetables, we can feel the rainy fog of an April morning, and the blistering heat of an August afternoon. And he loves the manual labor, which is my f ...more
Apr 15, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
A New York writer and his girlfriend find an ad for a rental house in a small village in France and decide to give it a year. In meeting neighbors and townspeople, Richard becomes fascinated with their gardens around the perimeter of the village. After securing a piece of land from a vineyard, he proceeds to learn from scratch about raising vegetables. Of course everyone has advice and his or her own best way of growing tomatoes.

As a gardener, it was an interesting and fun read. Very reminiscent
Apr 24, 2016 Eugene rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
What a pleasure. Basically a journal of the author's year in a rented house in southern France, during which time he determined to cultivate a plot and grow a vegetable garden. His story tells of the help he received from the French inhabitants, and how that process gave him entree into the day-to-day life of the village. Charming, easy read, and a perfect one to read at this time of year, when we're waiting for frost dangers to pass so that we can plant our garden here.
If you're a gardener, yo
May 03, 2009 Becky rated it liked it
Interesting book about an American who rents a house and starts a garden in rural southern France where they also try to become a part of the community.. Goodman needs firewood and trades his labor for it with a grape grower. So he learns the intricacies of that occupation but he really wants a proper garden. All his problems, from heat and water to community relations are described. He plants vegetables and melons. He hauls water by hand - no sprinkler system. The tomato growing episode is funn ...more
Apr 12, 2016 Valectrice rated it liked it
The author does a nice job of creating a sense of place for the French village where he lived for a year, but other than his friend Jules, I never felt as though I got to know the other villagers. He also does an excellent job of describing the obsessiveness of many gardeners. I am ready to move to the south of France after reading this book, but am not sure that I would know what to expect after reading this book. Still, all in all, an enjoyable read.
Mar 23, 2016 Pauline rated it liked it
Shelves: france
I do not garden but I love France so picked up this book from the library. It was simply OK. I think the author was hoping to reach a Peter Mayle type book--it fell far short of A Year in Provence. It appeared he just tried a little too hard to get a book published. A few interesting spots but nothing outstanding. Anticlimactic. It took me back to France for a few hours so it served a purpose and made me smile . If you are an avid gardener you might find it far more engaging. It was worth the ti ...more
Jul 10, 2015 Barb rated it it was amazing
Not your typical book about an American in France or Italy - grandiose. This is a quiet little book that revolves around growing a garden and how it was the catalyst for the author's integration into the small village in southern France. It is a short book, but you get to know the villagers intimately and, because it focuses on growing his garden, you can feel his disappointments and triumphs as if they were yours. I loved the book.
Feb 16, 2013 Kathy rated it liked it
Shelves: gardens
Well, you would have thought this would be a sure fire delight for me. I am a pushover for books about gardens, and my goodness, throw in the South of France...what's not to like?
But for just didn't make it. Yeah, how groovy that he and his girlfriend end up in an old stone place in the midst of a hidden-named village of 211, and he is determined to prove that Americans can work, yes they can, and then he has dreams of Making A Garden and picking wonderful produce. And my heavens, he doe
Jan 13, 2015 Sunny rated it did not like it
This book was well reviewed and received. And, it's not a bad book. My rating ONLY reflects my personal feelings toward the topic. I love gardening, but somehow this book made me feel more and more ground down as I read it. Too many trials and tribulations? I'm not sure why.... Just that at the end I felt exhausted.

The cover is lovely. The publisher released a poster of it which I hung for many years in my home - loved the cover - just not the insides.
Aug 17, 2014 Jlf888 rated it liked it
A simple and engaging book about an American man who decides to grow a garden during his year in the south of France. Sparsely written with a lovely turn of phrase here and there, this was a perfect, easy read for summer. Fresh descriptions of the land, the people, and the feelings of a gardener, going through the process of gardening. Definitely not my favorite book about adventures in France, but charming nonetheless.
Apr 19, 2012 Roberta rated it really liked it
It is what it is, the story of a garden in France. The American writer spent a year in the south of France and gardened on a small plot. I think what I found most interesting was the cultural differences - very often, here in the US, it seems that gardens are very often kept by women. Not all, of course but it seems to be the norm.

The author of French Dirt tells us that in France, a vegetable garden is most often a man's territory but again, there are exceptions. The author toils over his garden
Kim Saunders
Apr 12, 2015 Kim Saunders rated it really liked it
An appropriate story to read in the Spring. It made me want to go dig in some dirt and start a garden of my own. I felt the bookhad the same flavor as Under the Tuscan Sun but without the renovation nightmares. An enjoyable tale of a small village in France and the adventures of a novice gardener.
Nov 16, 2014 Wendy rated it it was amazing
Step out of your hectic day and spend some time in a small village. This quiet story shares a glimpse of a couple's bold decision to experience something else, somewhere else. It didn't inspire me to plant a garden, but I cheered for their first harvest. There are no caricatures of French people here, a welcome change from the many "silly American goes to France and meets really, really French neighbors" books.
Jun 16, 2016 Diane rated it liked it
I am not into gardening, not even a little, but I enjoyed this book. I loved the author's descriptions of the French countryside, the houses and the people of the small village where he was staying. It was nice to visit the South of France for a couple of hours even if only vicariously.
Aug 01, 2011 Leah rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was so good, even though it was about the French. Richard and his wife go to live in France for a year so he can work on his writing. I'm so jealous of these authors who get to just travel all over the world and do nothing but write. Anyway, Richard borrowed a plot of land and planted a big old garden which helped him make relationships with reluctant villagers and get in touch with nature. the story is more about his experience than it is about gardening, but I love these kinds of sto ...more
Anderson's Bookshops
Jul 20, 2010 Anderson's Bookshops rated it really liked it
Shelves: doriss-shelf
Doris said: "What a sweet book. Hows did I miss this 10 years ago? Richard Goodman saw an ad in the newspaper for a stone house in a village in the south of France with 4BR/2BA, a fireplace, books, desk & bikes for $450 a month plus utilities. Who wouldn't jump at that! So off he went with his then girlfriend for a year in St. Sebastien de Caisson, a village of 200 with no shops or much of anything except vinyards. The locals ignored him--just another American--so he offered to work in the v ...more
May 16, 2011 Sandy rated it it was amazing
This books was fabulous and a page turner to be sure.I keep hoping Richard Goodman will write
more books but as yet he hasn't which is rather disappointing. You can either pick it up at your
local Barnes & Noble Book shoppes or even in your local Library possibly.

If you love to Travel, especially to France in Provence, then you will enjoy this book. And also
if you like to Garden, be it a large garden in your backyard, or a community garden and even for
those who have a balcony where you love to
May 16, 2009 Lorene rated it it was amazing
One of the things that I admire about Goodman’s work is the nature of his observations. In the chapter, titled “Routines,” he writes,
“I would crouch down on one knee, thrust my hand shovel in and turn the earth up and over, revealing its darker, humid underside. Then I would crumble it slowly in my hands to better allow the plant to breathe. In that sense I had a comradeship with the earth: I must be able to breathe, too” (113).
For many of us, our breathing goes unnoticed—it just happens, it
Jul 28, 2014 Rosebud rated it liked it
I generously rated this book a "3." However, it was disappointing and a bit boring. I love gardening and will be visiting France so the premise of the book was enticing. It just didn't reach its potential, as it could have been so much more.
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Richard Goodman is the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France. He is also the author of A New York Memoir and The Soul of Creative Writing. His book, The Bicycle Diaries: One New Yorker's Journey Through September 11th, with original wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec, was published in 2011. He has written for The New York Times, Harvard Review, Creative Nonfiction, ...more
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