EXTRA VIRGIN by Annie Hawes


A Young Woman Discovers the Italian Riviera, Where Every Month Is Enchanted
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Two English sisters play peasants in the Ligurian countryside in Italy: one describes their adventure here, clearly hoping to do for the tiny village of Diano San Pietro (and for herself), what Peter Mayle did for Provence.

The girls arrive to graft roses as a summer job, and end up buying a peasant’s cottage for a pittance. They restore the little house, learn how to sanitize its outhouse, and cultivate a hillside garden. They import their boyfriends and a few power tools, none of which are compatible with the tough foliage and easygoing ways of the Italian hillside village. They polish their shaky Italian and learn the eccentric Ligurian dialect. Liguria is an olive-growing area, and when the women arrive, olive prices are in the pits, resulting in a depressed local economy and even more depressed local inhabitants. By the end of the story, however, a lipid-conscious society elevates olive oil to new heights, and the prosperity of Liguria is restored. Small incidents—the purchase of a British car, the inability to get parts, the subsequent abandonment of same, minute descriptions of local fêtes and festivals—make up what passes for a story line here. There is also much description of food—how it is eaten, what it consists of, and in what order the courses arrive according to local protocol. This causes no end of yuks for the British sisters, who are eventually seduced and learn to adapt. Presumably, they learn to cook, too.

Not enough style or humor to keep the pages turning: the author brings so many touristy preconceptions to the plate (one tires early on of descriptions of “hanky-headed” olive growers and their quaint, local customs) that it is hard to see whether she fell in love with a country or an ideal.

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-019850-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2000