I read ‘French Dirt – The story of a garden in the south of France’, by Richard Goodman, in the month of August. The same time as the culmination of the story. Sitting in my French garden, hence the inspiration to read, I enjoyed the stories surrounding the inhabitants of a small village in southern France.
It’s a non-fiction telling of a ‘year in a life’ in France by an American and his Dutch partner. It gives some interesting insights into what it is like to be an outsider in a close knit community. Especially as he knows little of France or it’s people, but is willing to learn. And learn quickly, as by the time the story truly gains momentum he is already through almost half his year.
The book is simple in concept and wording, sometimes trying a little too hard. (A bit like the author trying to meet the locals, but then he is time constrained). And still it is a book I can recommend, particularly if you are looking for some idea of how expats fit into small French villages.
Goodman and his partner realise fairly quickly on that although they are living in a place with few inhabitants, he is not meeting or getting to know any of them. Tellingly, their first acquaintances are Spaniards, who live in the village.
As spring dawns Goodman decides to focus his efforts on really trying to get to know the locals. He comes to this via the idea of having a garden. Something he has never done before. Obviously the villagers are keen on their gardens, so I suspect that is his main reason for trying this idea. It certainly gives him a point of topic to meet and discuss with the gardening inhabitants.
And, what makes the book enjoyable, it creates a unique perspective on life in France. But it is not only the gardening focus that is unusual. It is also because it is written from a man’s perspective. I would say 99% of (non-fiction) French lifestyle books I read are written by women. Having a man’s view on life in France makes for an interesting point on its own.
A recommended read for those considering living in France, and a taste of what it is to be an expat in a small village. Add on the gardening aspect, and I for one found it inspired me to work on my garden. Particularly on days when I wasn’t feeling inclined.
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