Books and Good Reading
Alex Dingwall-Main, also the author of the perhaps better known lives with his family in Provence, France. A lifelong professional gardener, he is also a well known author, writing for, among others, The Times and the BBC.  Perhaps his best known work is the Luberon Garden, but here, in the Angel Tree, he travels across Europe - France, Spain, Italy, Greece - including Crete, on a commission from a French Millionaire to find the World's oldest olive tree.  As reviewer Ann Lisney points out, anyone on Crete knows where that is!!

Title: THE ANGEL TREE. Author: Alex Dingwall-Main.
Publisher: Ebury Press. ISBN  0 09 189547 2 (Paperback). Published 2003.  Price: 7.99 GB Pounds.                                     
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Published by Ebury Press

Having acquired an interest in olive trees when we moved out to Crete earlier this year, I was pleased to get the chance to review this book, which relates the author’s search for a special olive tree.

Alex Dingwall-Main is a garden designer now resident in the south of France. He (literally) bumps into an eccentric French millionaire who wants him to suggest something unique to take pride of place in his restored garden. Monsieur Lautour must be the client of a lifetime, as he stumps up for the author to swan around France, Spain, Italy and Greece - Crete - in an attempt to find ‘the oldest olive tree in existence’.

The book relates the author’s quest for Monsieur Lautour’s Holy Grail through four countries, and the larger-than-life characters he meets on his way.

I have to confess that I didn’t warm to the author’s writing style. In fact I nearly threw the book at the wall on a couple of occasions, when some of his soaring purple prose seemed to be in danger of wandering off into the stratosphere. Neither did I enjoy his puerile sense of humour, his obvious enthusiasm for himself, his show-off Latin name-dropping of most other plants he came across, or even the innumerable tangents to the main story. I would also take issue with his editor, who really ought to have corrected Dingwall-Main's tendency to write sentences without a verb.

OK, so I’m a crabby old shrew! But if you can manage to ignore the above-mentioned shortcomings, or are not as pedantic as me, the book makes quite an enjoyable read. It was well researched and quite detailed – if a little repetitive. The ‘Facts’ section at the back was particularly informative for fellow olive enthusiasts.

Of course, those of us living in Crete know that the oldest olive tree is here on the island – no question about it. Ask any Cretan – he will have a cousin who has the very tree!

Ann Lisney.