24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant! If you're at all interested in Italy, buy it.,
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This review is from: Extra Virgin: Amongst the Olive Groves of Liguria (Paperback)
This is a wonderful book.
I love Italy. The countryside is beautiful, the towns are amazing and I have enjoyed meeting virtually everyone I have ever met during my time in the country.
Annie Hawes (and her sister) were obviously just as infatuated with the place but, at some point during the 1980's, they were brave enough to take the next logical step and buy an olive grove and a ramshackle farm-worker's cottage high on a Ligurian hillside. For those with a shaky knowledge of Italian geography, Liguria is also known as the Italian Riviera: the bit along the coast on the top left bit of the 'boot'.
At the time the story begins, rural Liguria - the hilly area inland from the gaudy beach resorts along the Mediterranean coast - was in difficulty. Due to the difficult terrain and poor soil, local agriculture is based on olives and particularly the production of olive oil. Since this was before the health-enhancing properties of the 'Mediterranean diet' were well-known, the local farmers were reduced to scrabbling a living in any way they could and their beloved, ancient olive groves were largely neglected.
Times have changed, and the story of Extra Virgin is, to some extent, the story of how poor olive farmers have become well-off olive farmers thanks largely to changes in the eating habits of Western Europeans.
The story is mainly, however, about how two young English women who grew up in a city made a second home for themselves in the hills of Liguria and the characters, pleasures and difficulties they encountered.
It is clear that Ms Hawes has a deep affection for the countryside and the people. This does not mean she is reluctant to point out their failings and foibles. On the contrary, each of the characters who has played some part in her life is very human, but sharp observation never slips into criticism, humorous description never becomes mockery.
Ms Hawes may not like everyone she has dealt with over the years. She does respect them. Most of all, she has obviously made an effort to understand them.
If you're not a foodie (or a olive farmer) it's likely you'll learn an interesting fact or two about olives while reading Extra Virgin. You'll also learn something about the Italian philosophy of food and drink and - most importantly - the Italian theory of digestion.
If you have any sort of a sense of humour, you will certainly laugh.