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Novel set in The South of France – plus interview with the author, Carol Drinkwater

13th February 2016

The Forgotten Summer by Carol Drinkwater, novel set in the South of France.

IMG_3484The book opens with the annual grape harvest at the Cambon family home in the South of France. Daughter-in-law Jane is joining husband Luc as it is all hands to the deck at this critical starting point in the wine producing year. However, matriarch and mother-in-law Clarisse has never taken to this female interloper and will take every opportunity to vent her cutting displeasure.

But there are secrets aplenty within this family and when tragedy strikes, Jane is left to delve into the history so that she can start to settle and work out her future. Should she settle in France, where she has fond memories of travels with her father, or should she remain in London? How can she even begin to work on the relationship with Clarisse, who, as time folds in on herself with alcohol induced depressive episodes?

She garners the support of those in the Cambon employ, who rally once they understand her commitment to  the failing farm and that she is determined to at least try and get it back on its feet. But the personal secrets soon unravel and she has to find strength and energy to sustain her livelihood, as well as her sanity in the face of adverse discoveries.

Carol clearly knows the area really the well as she has relocated to her own farm in France – the descriptions are suffused with detail and warmth, and the story could only be set amongst the vineyards and olive trees of this part of the world.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

Carol has kindly agreed to chat to us about writing and The Forgotten Summer and lots more! Enjoy!

TF: The Forgotten Summer is the story of Jane, one woman’s odyssey, as she navigates her way through Provençal culture, mores and secrets. You have written – amongst many other books – your memoirs of moving to the South of France in The Olive Farm Trilogy. How much of you and your experience do you see in Jane?

CD: The Olive Farm Trilogy is in fact six books! Four are set on the farm and two recount my seventeen-month solo travels round the Mediterranean.

Jane is very different to me. What I have taken from ‘Carol’ and given to Jane is a love story. I wanted to create a character who loves her man no matter what, through all challenges. Jane meets Luc when she is seven years old and from the beginning she is besotted. Of course that love changes, deepens, evolves into a woman’s feelings. Jane and Luc enjoy wonderful sexy times in Paris. They travel together, fall passionately in love and then marry almost spontaneously in Rome…

As the secret that lies at the heart of the book slowly unfolds, Jane’s love of Luc is sorely challenged but it does not die. She does not give up on it. And it pays off – she discovers new layers of living and joy.

TF: There is a lot of adversity in The Forgotten Summer. Jane has to face a number of personal issues, death, some fundamental secrets, her father suffering from Alzheimer’s, a controlling mother-in-law. She ploughs on. How deep have you yourself had to dig in the transition from UK life to Provençal life?

CD: I have had to dig pretty deep indeed. My issues are different to Jane’s. I have not yet had to face any of the above but I did have to face a period of great loneliness when my French husband and I split up for a time and I stayed on alone at the farm instead of returning to the UK.

I made a commitment to my French life and I ploughed on and I am so glad that I made that choice.

TF: You had success as an actress in All Creatures Great and Small. What do you miss about that period of your life? (and what aspects do you perhaps not miss?)

CD: I continued to act after I moved to France while at the same time I began to write in earnest and the transition more or less took care of itself. However, I miss acting and if a wonderful role was offered to me, I would accept it. I would not give up writing because I value the freedom of expression it gives me, but I miss the camaraderie of working with film crews and fellow actors. And I miss the buzz of working live, if you know what I mean. If a written scene does not work I can change it, rewrite it. It is mine until it goes to print. As an actress, you need to jump (particularly on stage) and it is both thrilling and terrifying. I love that buzz.

But I wouldn’t change my life in France. I love being here and I ache for it when I am away.

TF: You beautifully depict the range of wonderful food that is on offer in the South of France, as well as the weather, the smells, the colour. What, however, do you miss about English cuisine and England itself?

CD: Thank you.

I am sorry, but I don’t miss England or its cuisine except I do love a plate of fish and chips every now and then. Newspaper, greasy fingers, the smell of dark vinegar shaken from a bottle. I miss friends and I miss acting but not the UK itself. I am a little more than half Irish so I do miss a few things about Ireland: the easy-going attitude of the people, the warm welcomes when I return and the stunning coastal-scapes that I love to walk, hair blown by the Atlantic winds.

TF: What is your next project?

CD: I am writing another novel for Penguin which is also set in France but has a little bit of England in it too. The old streets of Paris, the flower-scented hills of Provence…

TF: If you were to give advice to someone thinking of relocating to France, what would your top tips be?

CD: Learn the language. I believe this is essential if you wish to become a part of the local community. Don’t cling to the ex-pat scene. I think you miss out on so much when that happens. Find hobbies or interests that will slowly involve you in the local French life. If you have children at school, that helps. You can get to know other parents. I don’t have children but having olive trees got me into the local agricultural scene. My husband is a filmmaker so I have a wonderful network of friends and fellow artists who make films, write, or are photographers etc.

Thank you to Carol for her wonderful responses. You can follow her on Twitter and via her website

For more books set in the South of France just click here

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  1. User: Letty Blanchard

    Posted on: 24/02/2016 at 9:30 pm

    I love reading books set in France!! Adding to my list!!


  2. User: Erika Messer

    Posted on: 23/02/2016 at 11:26 pm

    I honestly want to read this SO bad! Thank you for the info on the book – I love anything set it France and this fits that bill! Thanks!