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Blackberry Wine [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Joanne Harris
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2001 Thorndike Core
Everyday magic, he called it - the transformation of base matter into the stuff of dreams, layman's alchemy. Jay Mackintosh is trapped by memory in the old familiar landscapes of his childhood, more enticing than the present, and to which he longs to return. A bottle of home-brewed wine left to him by a long-vanished friend seems to provide both the key to an old mystery and a doorway into another world. As the unusual properties of the strange brew take effect, Jay escapes to a derelict farmhouse in the French village of Lansquenet, where a ghost from the past waits to confront him, and the reclusive Marise - haunted, lovely and dangerous - hides a terrible secret behind her closed shutters. Between them, a mysterious chemistry. Or could it be magic?
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Amazon

Joanne Harris's first novel, Chocolat, was set in the sleepy French village of Lansquenet, where enchantment, romance, and soft-centered truths issued from the local confectioner's shop. She returns to the same location for Blackberry Wine. But as the title suggests, she's shifted her focus from food to drink, choosing a half-dozen bottles of homemade plonk as the catalyst for her "layman's alchemy." And even the narrator is no human being but a faintly tannic Fleurie 1962: "A pert, garrulous wine, cheery and little brash, with a pungent taste of blackcurrant!"

There are, of course, some less vinous characters in the novel. Harris's protagonist, Jay Mackintosh, is a former literary star, now sadly stalled. He spends his time writing second-rate science fiction, leading a hollow media life, and drinking: "Not to forget, but to remember, to open up the past and find himself there again." Yet the nice, expensive wines don't do the trick. Instead, six "Specials"--a gift from his old friend Joe--function as Jay's magical elixir. Like Proust's lime-blossom tisane, they give him the gift of his memories but also unlock his future, which encourages him to flee the rut of his London life and buy a house in Lansquenet.

As Jay settles in, he contemplates his childhood friendship with Joe, whose idiosyncratic outlook was the inspiration for his only successful book. Meanwhile, he becomes involved in village life, encountering some familiar faces from Chocolat. Caro and Toinette, the snooty troublemakers, soon put in an appearance, and Josephine, the bar owner and battered wife of the earlier novel, becomes a real friend. But it's a new character, the enigmatic Marise, who becomes the focus of Jay's attention--and who helps to restore his literary joie de vivre. This feat of resurrection makes for a hugely enjoyable read. It also goes one step further in adding Lansquenet to the map of imaginary destinations, where daydreams can come true with intoxicating frequency. --Eithne Farry --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Like her well-received 1999 novel, Chocolat, Harris's latest outing unfolds around the arrival of an outsider in a tiny French town. This time wine replaces chocolate as Harris's magic elixir, and the newcomer to the village of Lansquenet sur Tannes is Jay Mackintosh, a 37-year-old has-been writer from London. Fourteen years have passed since Jay's debut novel, Jackapple Joe, won the Prix Goncourt. Since then, he has been churning out B-novels under a pseudonym; he currently lives with his girlfriend, Kerry, an aggressively successful 25-year-old celebrity journalist. Flashbacks reveal that Jay's only recollections of happiness are the golden summers he spent as a youth with old Joseph "Jackapple Joe" Cox in the small English town of Kirby Monckton. Joe, a colorful character who made wines from fruits and berries, inspired Joe's successful first novel. But one day he disappeared. When Jay stumbles across an advertisement for an 18th-century "chateau" in wine-growing country, the spell of his misery is broken. After downing a bottle of Joe's '75 Special, which he has been hoarding for 24 years, Jay decides to buy the house sight unseen. Leaving Kerry in London, Jay moves to Lansquenet and starts a new rural life, beginning to write under his own name again. He is bewildered by his reclusive neighbor, Marise d'Api, who apparently coveted his derelict house and land, and is ostracized by the townspeople. Jay's quest to discover why everyone, including Marise's former mother-in-law, blames Marise for her husband's suicide keeps the plot moving at a steady clip. Despite some unbelievable twists and a slightly uneven paceAit begins slowly, but by the last quarter races aheadAthis is an entertaining narrative, equal parts whimsy and drama. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth reading May 28 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Blackberry Wine was one of the biggest disappointments I have read recently. The plot is confusing as it moves clumsily back and forth continuously from 1977 to 1999 every other chapter. Many times I felt like just jumping ahead and skipping the 1977 chapters.
The characters are one dimensional and exceedingly ordinary.
This was a toss in the garbage book for me. The only thing going for it was the title and even that was an extended contrived metaphor. Don't waste your hard earned money on this "penny dreadful".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for a riveting tale ... read in 2.5 days! April 3 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
I really loved the unfolding of the characters and the essence of each individual's contribution to the plot. It was so well orchestrated and finely tuned throughout. I fell in love with Joe and could have spent days in his beloved care. Thank you to one of my favourite authors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Stays With You May 23 2002
It has been over two months since I read this book and I think of it alot. It has such vivid passages that I feel as though if I stumbled upon Joe's house in the real world I would recognize it in an instant. I loved the scattered attachments to Chocolat. Joanne Harris is definitely an author that I will remember and keep reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Joanne Harris's best novel April 18 2010
By Phoebe
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read this novel twice, and the second time was even better than the first for the nuances that a rereading revealed. While the novel's conclusion is certainly not unexpected, and its theme of following one's dreams is commonplace,the evolving relationship between the main character, Jay, and the older man who befriends him, is a delight. Much of the novel focuses on the conflict between what Jay wants to believe about Joe and his "everyday magic" and what he finally thinks he knows. In the end, Jay's anger and disillusionment give way to a new understanding of Joe and himself; and this is achieved in a manner that I found most surprising, since, like Jay, I thought that I had Joe all figured out.

While I admit that, at times, the repeated movement between past and present meant that I felt torn out of one interesting narrative and thrust abruptly into another, I cannot think how Harris could have told this story differently, of the persistent past that continues to haunt the grown man, without leaving one or the other undeveloped.

Finally, the novel took me to a very different world and made it plausible and real. Now that's magical.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Surprise June 3 2002
By A Customer
I purchased this book because I enjoyed Chocolat so much. At first the book was hard to get into, each chapter jumps from present day to 20 years into the past and than back again. The main character was hard for me to like at first. But after the first few chapters that drag, the main character moves from London to a small village in France and the story takes off from there. It was very enjoyable good-good story and like most stories, ended all too soon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute gem. May 28 2002
The work of genius has been said to be 'that which can enchant a child yet move the most worldly of men to tears.' I probably don't need to say more than that to recommend this book.It is such a gem.I'm usually very picky about what I read and virtually NEVER finish reading most fictional works as they fail to engage my interest. This book had me enthralled from the moment I read the first page; I read it all in one morning and then more thoughtfully over the next couple of days. I have just finished reading it a third time.What is so enthralling about it you may ask.The book is written from the viewpoint of a vintage bottle of wine that just happens to be the same age as the main character, Jay. (Yes I'm sure you can now guess what happens right at the end.) The intense emotional saga of Jay throughout the book is neatly counterpointed by the 'character' of the bottle of wine (memories of long-remembered past summers, suppressed, changed and matured by years of 'confinement'.)The relationship between Jay and 'Jackapple Joe' will strike a chord with anyone who remembers a special childhood relationship with an old person - in particular the way the child takes everything for granted and regrets this years later when it is too late to remedy.In the book Jay is given a magical second chance with Joe (I won't spoil things for potential readers by saying how, or whether he is successful.) There are various other subtle and clever themes woven into this tale, which on a first reading appear perhaps disconnected from the more central ones. I appreciated the unity of the entire book by reading it again.Any review of an excellent work obviously does not do either the work itself or the author justice. I apologise for this. You will miss out if you do not taste 'Blackberry Wine'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Message in a Bottle May 27 2002
Having read Chocolat, I realized Harris is a kindred spirit...the sci-fi, the food, the memories, the spirituality. So I picked up Blackberry Wine in a blythe mood, and read it in less than two days. I really didn't want it to end: Jay, the hero, had a tumultuous coming of age in mystical setting with an old crank Joe as the teacher-wizard, with his incantations, his fantastical seeds, his potions (wines). The story flashes back and forth between these idyllic summers and Jay's deflated present of 1999, as a burned out writer who throve on the memory of those same summers. He cracks open Joe's old '75 wines and Joe is brought back, verily a genie from a bottle, as Jay's muse, and an adventure living in the village of Lansquenet ensues. The story stirred me on many levels, particularly the gilded, bittersweet summers as a young teen, that we all wish we could bottle and save like the Specials, to re-open and re-immerse ourselves in again. A great read.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, but I had very high expectations
As a big fan of Joanne Harris, I was excited to read Blackberry Wine. Maybe I just could not relate to Jay or to Joe the mysterious ghostly gardener. Read more
Published on April 18 2002 by A. Alcott
3.0 out of 5 stars It's not chocolat
After Chocolat, I suppose I should have expected a let down. The plot was good - the young writer dropping everything and going to France, his traumatic learning experiences... Read more
Published on April 1 2002 by ParisPieInTheSky
2.0 out of 5 stars perhaps.....
Perhaps Joanne Harris had a hard time identifying with a male perspective. Perhaps the only topic she knows is the magical and medicinal attributes of herbs and plants. Read more
Published on March 31 2002 by KellyAnne
4.0 out of 5 stars An intoxicating read
Retaining the atmospheric intensity of Chocolat, Joanne Harris creates another tale which cleverly interweaves the childhood
and new life of Jay Mackintosh, a one-novel wonder... Read more
Published on March 19 2002 by "johnewark"
4.0 out of 5 stars On the way back to my childhood
If you liked Chocolate, then read Blackberry wine just to find out what happened to your favourite characters after Vianne had left the villige. Read more
Published on March 12 2002 by trikolka
4.0 out of 5 stars A Magical Vintage
An intoxicating tale of Jay Mackintosh who escapes his mundane life in London amidst the pretentious world of literary launches, bored journalists and cheap champagne to a derelict... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2002 by "capricornlady"
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