Book Review: Moon over Martinborough, by Jared Gulian

Moon over Martinborough is food for the soul for anyone that Image
wants to escape to a simple country life, away from the bright lights and big city stresses.  Shared as a collection of short tales about life on a New Zealand country olive grove, the idea from the book originates from the author’s long-time blog of the same name; the story snapped up by publisher Random House.

Author Jared Gulian and his partner (“a couple of ignorant American city boys”) buy a rundown olive orchard in the Wairarapa with no prior experience of growing olives or country life.  The book chronicles the charming stories of the first four years living in paradise, discovering the beauty of walking through a moonlit olive grove, lazing by the nearby river on long summer days, dinners spent sampling and sharing local produce and wine with friendly neighbours.  Both CJ and Jared keep their jobs in Wellington and take on a 90 minute commute each day, but after life in large cities, the commute is no problem for them.  We don’t hear much of about city life though, the tales in this book focus on life in the grove.

It’s not all roses and wine, there is hard slog in maintaining an olive grove, pruning and weeding 500 trees on the weekends, learning about farm & grove machinery, and figuring out what to do when your water stops because something has gone wrong in your well. It’s heartening to read of good old-fashioned helpful neighbours such as Welsh Jim, Aussie Bronwyn, Kiwi Bronwyn, Leelee and the Wolf who leap to assist with key information on why chickens won’t lay, how to transport one’s new pet Kunekune pig, and lending tractors.

The tales will keep you amused, and you’re quickly onside with Jared as you wish him to succeed with his gorgeously positive approach to challenges.  Jared takes his newly bottled ‘Moon over Martinborough’ olive oil to the local wine centre hoping that the store will stock it.  He waits and waits to hear what they think of it and he fears the woman who runs the store ‘doesn’t know how to break it to me that our olive oil was not fit to grease her bicycle chain’.  The olive oil is stunning of course, tasty, buttery, with a bang of pepper at the end.  The store sells it; and we’re all as pleased and proud as Jared.

Read a tale before bed and Moon over Martinborough will send you off dreaming of your own patch of country sun.  The book would be perfect as a present for wistful family and friends that want to leave life in the city but don’t know where to start.  This book might just give them a little courage to try.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

Moon over Martinborough
by Jared Gulian
Published by Random House NZ
ISBN 9781775530053

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