The Lost Girl, By Carol Drinkwater

This week I found myself sitting opposite Helen Herriot, wife of vet James Herriot of All Creatures Great And Small fame and the person I most wanted to end up being when I was a teenager (after Rhoda). Who wouldn’t want to grow up and marry a vet and live in the Yorkshire Dales? We had simpler dreams back in the 70s. Readers younger than 40 might want to Google those references.

Carol Drinkwater, who played the floral-dress wearing vet’s wife, had agreed to be interviewed for We Wear Perfume (she is an enthusiastic Chanel No. 5 wearer and ‘scents’ her characters when she’s acting), so I took the opportunity to ask a few questions for TWR. She turned out to be marvelous company. As well as being a successful actress and film maker, she also writes books and has won huge acclaim for her best selling Olive Farm series, which documents her purchase of an ancient Provence olive farm and subsequent adventures in restoring it and growing olives. She still lives there, still produces (wonderful, organic) olive oil and now has many books under her belt (she is an excellent story teller), the most recent of which, The Lost Girl, I have just read.

The book is a terrific read, an engaging, immersive story that is strongly influenced by the appalling recent attacks on Paris. She was researching and planning a completely different story, but found she had to put it aside in order to complete a book she claims pretty much wrote itself.

“I found that I very much wanted to write about the attacks,” she told me, “I was so deeply shocked and moved by it all. I don’t remember writing this book at all, it wrote itself. So it’s difficult when people say ‘how did you research this bit and that bit’ because I don’t know! It just happened. I was with my mum on the night of the attacks and I switched on the TV, which was quite rare for me, I don’t watch the evening news that often. I was crying and had my arm round my mum. When we heard about the Bataclan theatre hostages she said, ‘Everyone of those people has a mother waiting outside, desperate to know if they’ve survived.’ And that just seeded itself in my head.

Then, my mother died three months later, that’s how the Marguerite character came about.”

Marguerite is the older actress in the book, who helps our heroine Kurtiz during a distressing moment in her life. Two stories unfold, one around Kurtiz, her missing daughter and her work as a photographer and another around Marguerite, featuring characters from another time who play their own role in both their futures.

It’s a moving tale, as I neared the end I found myself sobbing on the Piccadilly Line (not a good look) but it’s also entertaining, uplifting and joyous too.

I asked Carol if she had any tips for any of our grown up readers who thought they might have a book in them, is it easy to be a writer?

“It is hard,” she said. “The business is so tough now, but its also enormously rewarding. Publishers are more demanding than ever before, which is not a bad thing. I always enjoy a challenge. I think we need to stay true to ourselves though, if publishers only push for bestsellers and more formulaic  ideas.  I also write ebooks and shorter novels for Amazon for their Kindle Single store. I have been very pleasantly surprised by the high standard of their editorial team.”

On starting out writing later in life, Carol pointed out that Mary Wesley was enormously popular back in the late 70s and early 80s. “she wrote The Chamomile Lawn, ” Carol said, “everything she penned became a television series and she only started writing at 60. I remember reading her and her partner were wannabe writers, but it was only really when he died she began to flower.”

Hope for us all then.

We have three copies of The Lost Girl to give away (thanks Penguin!) So if you’d like one, please leave a comment below on why we should give one to you. Humour and wit always appreciated. We’ll pick the winners later in August.





  • Mary says:

    Whenever I am fortunate enough to cross the Pond and visit, one of the things I like to do is go the nearest bookstore and buy hard copies of any Carol Drinkwater books I don’t already own. Yes, I could buy them in the US, but I prefer the British covers. Loved her in ACGS. Enjoy her writing even more. As you say, the Olive Farm series is beloved and she is a wonderful storyteller, so I look forward to reading her newest book. Her writing always resonates with me.

    (Sorry–wit and humor are hard to come by at the moment. I work in Washington, DC; surrounded by witless politicians. Sucks the humour right out of you.)

  • Sarah says:

    I have to confess to also wanting to be Mrs Herriot and wear her clothes – from memory floral and practical – in the Dales….the purity of it all back then. My second confession is that I didn’t know Carol was a writer and have never read any of her books. So, I’d love to be introduced and it would make my 73 bus journey more lively albeit potentially needing more tissues than usual.

  • Jan says:

    Well done Carol not least for creatively reinventing herself. I too loved ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ and watching some repeats recently I think it’s interesting to see the way the period dressing was done, particularly the costumes. I noticed that both male and female characters had a limited wardrobe and wore the same clothes off and on through the episodes, as they would’ve done. Tristan Farnon had a beautiful zipped up cardigan that I coveted every time he wore it. The producers of period dramas now that are set around that period seem unable to resist giving the characters elastic wardrobes. Watching an hour’s progeriesramme it is not uncommon to see the leading ladies in several changes of costume with knitwear to die for. Super programme and Carol looked so beautiful, whatever she wore.

  • Janet says:

    I watched the original All Creatures Great and Small, probably when I should have been doing some work for my Open University degree. I’ve read and enjoyed her Olive Farm trilogy, enjoyment enhanced by staying on an organic olive farm in the hills behind Nice several years ago. was in France when the Bataclan attack happened, though not in Paris, also in France when the July 14th attack in Nice occurred. Both events were truly shocking in their impact, but the French, Parisian and Nicois alike, carry on with their lives as best they can.

  • Amanda says:

    All excellent replies womenfolk, am feeling a great deal of sympathy for Mary living in the humour-vacuum that is Washington DC. Who else would like one of our three give-away books? Leave your reasons for being considered here…A

  • Louisa Clarke says:

    Send it to Mary!

  • Mary says:

    I second sending it to Mary who may need it most! And not just because she is a fellow Mary!

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