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French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France Paperback – 25 Feb 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 203 pages
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing; New edition edition (25 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123522
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123526
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I HAD A GARDEN in the south of France. Read the first page
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eddie James on 12 Nov 2012
Format: Paperback
A friend recommended this book to me about a New Yorker who took on a garden in southern France some years ago and I have to say that to begin with I thought, 'Same old, same old..'

I was to be delightfully surpised though. Not only is the book itself a treat---with a beautiful jacket and luxuriously high quality paper---but the story of Mr Goodman's trials and tribulations both in the French dirt itself and in the dirty business of local politics/foreign relations, interspersed with memories of his childhood in Virginia was so engaging, it left me longing for more.

This would make a wonderful film and should easily have been successful as Peter Mayle's Toujours Provence. A perfect Christmas gift for any gardener, traveller or Francophile. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
lovely story about an American's year spent in rural France. He finds friends and learns about the people around him by "working hard". He then creates a garden on a piece of land he asks to use. What he plants is far beyond produce its life and love. loved the book :)
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Format: Paperback
This sounds exaggerated but I can honestly say that with a near lifetime's reading behind me, this is my favourite book. I'm reading it for a third time and finding yet more to enjoy. It is a love story at two levels - with a place and, though he plays it down, a woman.

Goodman is s modest, affectionate personality who wonderfully conveys the pleasures and pains of living in another culture and making relationships there. Almost fitting in but not quite. Loneliness and awkward moments as well as delights.
But his passion for the earth and growing things , the weather and landscape , is so richly and imaginatively evoked. He is a teacher of Creative Writing living in New York and I believe his other books are New York based - probably just a s rewarding in their own way but not so near to my heart.

A modest masterpiece. In many ways he reminds me of a happier, more generous Edward Thomas as he emerged in my own work*A Conscious Englishman - also one who found meaning in gardening and in encounters with working rural life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 31 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Warm reflections on an agrarian interlude 15 April 2002
By Michael K. McKeon - Published on
Format: Paperback
"French Lessons" is a warm memoir of the author's year long sojourn in a rural village in Southern France. Unlike the recollections of other foreign visitors who have written of their experiences in France, Goodman gives scant attention to the region's food or wine.
Goodman's tale is primarily spiritual -- the satisfaction he derives from communing with nature as a gardener, and his persistent efforts to gain acceptance and approval from this close knit, closed community of French farmers. The book is reminiscent of Chris Stewart's "Driving Over Lemons" in the latter respect.
Goodman's passion about his gardening experiences does become a bit cloying, and is somewhat saccarine, with almost forced profundity. A passage where he describes getting emotional over cutting bamboo, for example, definitely makes your teeth hurt. Although I derive a considerable amount of satisfaction from gardening myself, I found Goodman's anecdotes somewhat breathless and gushing, particularly his striving to "measure up" in the eyes of a helpful, friendly, apparently very strong 20 year old named Jules.
This is a pleasant book; however, I expected more, in light of the potential. "French Dirt" is mostly a recollection of Goodman's spiritual journey devoting himself to a garden one summer.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Little Old Gardenmaker, Me 16 July 2002
By John Knight - Published on
Format: Paperback
Richard Goodman and his Dutch girlfriend Iggy rent a two hundred year old stone house in the south of France for a year. Located in a small village of about 200 without a cafe, store or any kind of city center, they have a tough time figuring out how to connect with the locals. They do make one set of friends--a Spanish couple also living the expat life there.
But finally Richard decides to trade his labor for some firewood. Through working in the fields he begins to mix with the villagers. He is very much struck by Jules, a handsome 25 year old, and through that relationship eventually secures a small plot of land and determines to grow a vegetable garden.
And that really is the focus of the book. A longtime city dweller, Richard harkens back to the Michigan gardens of his youth and enjoys discovering the adult joys of gardening. Sometimes the writing gets to be a bit much--pretty sappy. And, if the truth be told, Richard isn't really very good at growing his garden. But the rivalries among the other village gardeners, the disparate and conflicting advice he receives and the hours spent in the sun tending his garden make this a light, likable read. And truly any book set in the south of France makes for a relaxing summer read!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Help Yourself to Richard's Garden 9 Oct 2001
By Mary Downs - Published on
Format: Paperback
This delightful short novel explores the author (an American) and his girlfriend's endeavors to cultivate friends and fruit in the south of France. I found myself walking alongside Richard as he introduced himself to his first real friend, Monsier Vasquez, as he binged on plant buying, as he picked his first vegetable. His description of the prank in which one of the least likely villagers placed perfect red, ripe tomatoes in his garden in early June was hilarious. For anyone wanting to experience living in a small French village this book vividly plants you there!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Like a garden on a sunny day... 19 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
... this book is a pleasure for the senses and a gentle adventure for the spirit, chronicling the author's year in Southern France and his dream of raising a garden there. It's part travelogue, part gardener's journal, part pilgrimmage and wholly enjoyable. A feast of a book!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Tries too hard 12 Jun 2008
By Matt Hetling - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a prime example of a first-person account gone wrong. The main problem is that Goodman is just too self-aware to give us any unfiltered view of his experience.

Goodman agonizes over his gardening decisions, and tries to present himself as a humble student of the people of the village. But beneath a thin layer of humility lies a gargantuan ego that rears its head on every page.

By his own account, Goodman pesters locals for help, advice, and affirmation at every turn. After prevailing on a couple of new friends and acquaintances for a lot of help, he abandons the effort and moves back to America before the season is even completely over. He doesn't even seem to recognize that this might be unfair to the people who have helped him in various ways.

More importantly are the glaring omissions and gaps. Goodman's relationship with girlfriend Iggy is probably the most important thing in his life during the time the story takes place, but we never get a sense of how that relationship progresses from seemingly functional to rocky to over. He's happy and willing to speculate on the gossip surrounding the locals, but he won't share the dirt on himself. Indeed, some passages read like a passive-aggressive appeal to his now-ex, either wooing her back or shifting blame away from himself.

Goodman does do one thing right, and that is to give a very interesting window into the life and people of the tiny French village. But too often, that window is spoiled by the images of Goodman fawning over the locals, practically begging them for affirmation that he is a member of their little community (which, of course, he isn't).

So, I can't really recommend this book. The writing is not honest, the protagonist is not likable, and the garden itself is too transient to accumulate any weight.
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