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

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

2.8 5
by Richard Goodman
     
 

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The ad in the classified section of Journal Francais d'Amerique read: Southern France: Stone house in Village near Nimes/Avignon/Uzes. 4BR, 2 baths, fireplace, books, desks, bikes. Perfect for writing, painting, exploring & experiencing la France Profonde. $450/mo. plus utilities. Richard Goodman read the ad. Then he did what most of us wish we had the nerve to do. He… See more details below

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Overview

The ad in the classified section of Journal Francais d'Amerique read: Southern France: Stone house in Village near Nimes/Avignon/Uzes. 4BR, 2 baths, fireplace, books, desks, bikes. Perfect for writing, painting, exploring & experiencing la France Profonde. $450/mo. plus utilities. Richard Goodman read the ad. Then he did what most of us wish we had the nerve to do. He decided to quit the New York rat race and, along with his girlfriend, spend a year living in a small French village. The small village turned out to be extremely small. St. Sebastien de Caisson (pop. 211) had neither baker nor butcher shop. No post office. No doctor. No gas station. What the village did have was a bustling population of rural farmers and vintners. Each night they congregated in the square beneath Goodman's window, and Goodman wished for the day he would join their spirited group. But they weren't interested in him. He was just another American, come to visit and soon to leave.

So Goodman laced up his work boots and went to work among his neighbors as a hired hand in their own fields, and soon they became his friends. But there was one more thing he longed for: a piece of land on which to have a garden. With the help of his new friends, Goodman found a plot of land on the outskirts of town, and thus begins the story of one man's love affair with a small patch of soil. French Dirt is about sun, earth, water. About hard work. About elation and defeat. And about the sublime pleasures of having a small piece of French land roughly thirty by forty feet all to oneself to garden. It's about a crop of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and parsley. Most of all, it's about the slow-growing friendship between an American outsider and a close-knit community of French farmers -- the garden's richest yield.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ostensibly about a garden kept by Goodman during a year spent in a tiny French village near Avignon, French Dirt is really an account of his response to living as an outsider in a tightly knit community. To make contact with the villagers and better understand their lot, Goodman first worked in a vineyard in exchange for firewood. The coming of spring and an epiphany in a local apricot orchard led him to borrow land, tools and expert but conflicting advice from resident gardeners for a vegetable garden of his own. The author's metaphor for gardening is that of love; he shares his initial out-of-control buying spree in the garden supply store, his devoted struggle to keep his plants watered without a hose or faucet and his raptures when the garden starts to produce. Unfortunately, this story of his short-lived affair with the garden (he left France at the end of August) is marred by self-indulgent writing and condescension toward the very villagers from whom he craved acceptance. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In this entrancing gardener's version of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence ( LJ 4/1/90), Goodman, a Manhattan transplant, recounts the year he spent tending a small vegetable garden in the tiny Provencal village of St. Sebestien de Caisson (an alias). In addition to describing a neophyte's discovery of the joys of creating a vegetable garden, he portrays the village with its highly polarized partisans of night-vs.-morning watering and its generous, hardworking villagers. At times, Goodman's simple poetic prose style is slightly self-conscious, but not to the point where it interferes with the book's narrative power. Sometimes the repetition of French words (``I had no faucet, no `robinet' '') irritates. Robinet means faucet. The drawings at the chapter heads are perfect: simple, childlike, humorous. This is an enjoyable read, quietly compelling, for anyone who loves the south of France or the making of a garden. For gardening and travel collections.-- Sharon Levin, Univ. of Vermont Lib., Burlington

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060975050
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/03/1992
Pages:
203
Product dimensions:
4.84(w) x 8.42(h) x 0.62(d)

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