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

(Olive series #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,679 ratings  ·  225 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 25th 2002 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,679 ratings  ·  225 reviews

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Oct 02, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People taking a break from Harlequin Romances
Recommended to Leftbanker by: People who eat at The Oilve Garden
Shelves: travel
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
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: memoir lovers and Francophiles
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 ...more
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, travel
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 ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
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.
Hilda Hansen
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
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, ...more
Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Stephanie Laurie Weima
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved it
Want to move to France!
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.

Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2011, travel
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
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, france, 2011, food
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
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
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.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, uno2018
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.
Nov 03, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Self-indulgent, boring, whiny.
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016

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
E.J. Bauer
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Carol Drinkwater, memoirs, France and olives
Shelves: memoirs
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
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List - Travel
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. ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Aug 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-auto-bio
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”.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saw an interview with "Helen Herriot" and learned she wrote books. This was a wonderful book. I will read the others; I believe it's a trilogy.
Denise Tarasuk
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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!
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book so much!!!
Brigid Gallagher
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Carol Drinkwater and her new partner Michel discover Appassionata - a house in need of renovation with extensive land in the hills above Cannes. It is also home to many plants and trees, including a collection of elderly and neglected olive trees.
Despite having very little money, they set out to buy the property,and restore both the house and the olive trees to their former glory.
I recently read The Olive Farm for the second time, and enjoyed it as much, if not more than my first read.
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Carol Drinkwater is an Anglo-Irish actress, author and filmmaker.

Other books in the series

Olive series (7 books)
  • The Olive Season
  • The Olive Harvest: A Memory of Love, Old Trees and Olive Oil
  • The Olive Route: A Personal Journey to the Heart of the Mediterranean
  • The Olive Tree
  • Return to the Olive Farm
  • The Illustrated Olive Farm: A Newly Written, Illustrated Companion to Her Bestselling Trilogy
“How many worlds make up a life!” 2 likes
“Once upon a time, oh, it seems a long while ago now, I dreamed of a natural haven, of paradise winking down upon a tranquil blue sea. I had pictured friends and family at ease in my Garden of Eden, sharing, and at peace, a place where artists worked and lovers loved. But it had been a vague sketch, a dream without lines between the dots, until I met Michel. Then it began to gain wattage, to take on a shape, develop light and shade, rhythm, sinew. Together we have breathed life into those blurred images. Together we have discovered how to live a new life.

Even more, what has blossomed out of those dreams surpasses any bricks or mortar, or even the loveliest of pearly terraced olive groves. Our paradise lies in the depth of our love. What geographical points our traveling takes us no longer matters....

We began this enterprise on a shoestring. Love and tenacity have held it together. We can do it again if we have to. And in the discovery of all this, I have shed skins—driving ambition, materialism, a need to control my life. I am learning to let go and am empowered. My heart has found heart.”
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