Striking a lovely balance of memoir, travelogue and olive-growing how-to, Drinkwater (The Olive Farm) delivers a richly textured account of her enviable life in southern France. She and her husband return from their wedding in Polynesia to their farm: "[P]erched halfway up the slope of the hill, our belle époque
villa comes into view. Abounding in balustrade terraces, nestling among cedars and palms... overlooking the bay of Cannes towards the sun-kissed Mediterranean, there it is." The author's roots are in acting, and her dramatic flair turns mundane chores—e.g., spraying olive trees with fungicide; learning the basics of beekeeping—into colorful celebrations of nature. Some of her adventures are quite funny, such as a stuffy dinner at a British Lady's home—it's the French equivalent of a McMansion, in a housing development "where the enormously wealthy and overly paranoid can vacation with peace of mind, secure in the knowledge that armed guards and coded gates keep the rest of the south of France out of sight and at bay." Drinkwater's description of her dinner companion at that gathering—"a convivial, lobster-faced aristocrat" who makes her feel like she's "in the company of a steaming kettle"—typifies her pointed yet kindhearted sense of humor. But at the heart of these optimistic musings lies Drinkwater's desire for a child of her own (her husband has daughters from a previous marriage), and this book is heartbreakingly framed around near-fulfillment of that dream. Drinkwater succeeds in illustrating not only the graceful countryside, but the buoying power of an adopted community and a devoted spouse. Agent, Ed Victor. (May 26)
Forecast:The popularity of Drinkwater's previous book creates a ready audience for this one; a $30,000 advertising campaign and author appearances will help.