Tuesday 30 June 2015

Reviewed: The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas.

The Olive Branch was published in ebook by Headline on March 26, 2015. The paperback will be published on July 2, 2015.

Thanks to Frances Gough for sending me a copy of this book to review via Bookbridgr.

What I love about Jo Thomas’ novels is that they are the perfect slice of escapism. The thing about The Olive Branch was that I knew I was going to love it before chapter one had even started. The prologue completely drew me in, plastered a smile on my face and set me up for the delightful story to follow. The moment Ruthie wakes up to confirmation of her winning eBay bid, she has to quickly wake up to the knowledge that her life has changed forever, because thanks to a prosecco-fuelled evening with her friend Morag, Ruthie is the new owner of a huge Italian home and olive farm. Much to the disbelief of her mum and her ex, Ed, Ruthie leaves England behind and heads to her dream home in Italy. When she arrives, she soon realises that maybe Ed and her mum were right to doubt her – the place needs a lot of work and her neighbours are less than welcoming, never mind that they just don’t understand the Italian she remembers from her studies. But just like the leading women I’ve come to expect from a Jo Thomas novel, Ruthie is strong, braver than she thinks and willing to try and make things work, even if it’s just to prove the point to her doubters, not least the frustrating, but also quite charming, Marco, her new neighbour. There’s a lot of laughs and maybe a few more struggles in Ruthie’s new life, but this novel was pure joy to read.

If you can read The Olive Branch without wanting to book yourself right away on a holiday to the Italian countryside then you are a much stronger person than I am. Jo’s descriptive writing is divine, and evident right from the first chapter when beautiful detail sets the scene for Ruthie’s new home and the surrounding landscape. Everything is made so vivid and easy to imagine so I was enthralled by every little image, taste and smell. The farmhouse was such a stunning location for a book to be set in and it worked perfectly with Jo’s picturesque style of writing, not to mention the warmth that radiates out of her stories. Each season brings new challenges to life on an olive farm and we learn a little about the jobs that need to be done, without that overpowering the story itself. The work aspect felt evidently well-researched and evocatively told and as for the farming, the food and the drink, well everything felt quite heavenly and how I would so love to be in that setting for a little while, in amongst the gorgeous landscape with the chickens, a goat, a cat and her kittens and of course, delectable neighbour Marco too…

Beautiful writing, beautiful setting, interesting storyline and so the only thing left to make this book a winner for me was a good set of characters. The Olive Farm did not disappoint there either. In the Bellanouvo family, other than Marco we have his whole extended family and they’re an entertaining bunch of characters. There’s a bit of animosity there, some little feuds and I was fascinated learning more about them. One character I particularly liked was Lou, who became a much-needed good friend to Ruthie. I thought she was honest and genuine and a good laugh, which was what Ruthie needed in a friend when she was getting the cold shoulder off of most of Marco’s family. Jo doesn’t only bring strong personalities to the people in this book but also the animals encountered on Ruthie’s farmhouse. Does it sound harsh to say Daphne the goat was probably my most favourite character? I genuinely loved the cast in this book but come on, how could you not be charmed by that animal who had such a wonderful way of stealing the show? And getting her own way. She was too cute. Each day in The Olive Branch placed new obstacles in front of poor Ruthie who I really wanted to get a break and build a happy life for herself. I felt like I was there, in the book, cheering her on the whole way through and there’s nothing like a book where you feel like you belong. The Olive Branch is the ultimate feel-good story, a book that will give you the warm fuzzies and see you not wanting to let go of this gorgeous little farmhouse the author has transported you to. A glorious summer read and the perfect book to lift your spirits and warm your heart.

Gloriously uplifting and another beauty of a book from Jo Thomas.


  1. Such a fantastic review. I really do like your review style. Another for the wish list. Nice to see you back in the reviewing mindset. Xxx


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