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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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars An intoxicating read March 19 2002
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 who now fills his time producing pulp standard science fiction and drinking
in an effort to recreate the glorious past he once possessed. After witnessing the decline of a relationship with his literary vulture girlfriend, Mackintosh buys a derelict French farmhouse in Lansquenet which inspires memories of his blissful childhood. As with fiction, nothing is quite what it seems and Jay finds himself caught in the middle of a long-standing dispute between
members of the village whilst discovering that his writing ability is now as fertile as the land surrounding him.
By cutting back to Jay's childhood, Harris encapsulates the mystique and adventure of moving to foreign fields, contrasting it with the relationships that Jay forms and breaks during his upbringing. This is often billed as being a romance novel but it can also claim to hold a number of other redeeming qualities, not just a great eye for the provincial French farmland but also the
nuances of a teenager's experiences. These range from love to betrayal and the realisation that no matter what something
appears to be, the truth is often a great deal harsher.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant and relaxing read June 25 2001
By wrylass
This novel is not without flaws, and some of the other reviews have drawn attention to some of these. Having bought an old house recently myself, the flaw that was most annoying to me is how quickly and effortlessly Jay whips this huge old house with major structural problems into shape while also completing a novel, planting a garden, bringing an orchard and rose garden back to life, drawing major gossip out of each and every reticent villager, and finding true love.
However, when I bought the book I was looking for (as mentioned in the title) a pleasant and relaxing read, and I found it in Blackberry Wine. This book sent me looking for more of Joanne Harris, because even though it does end abruptly with loose ends untied, its language is beautiful, and it has an intoxicating and entrancing quality unique in my experience. I felt drawn into the drowsy village. It was also a book I *could* put down, which I considered a plus. I was not looking for a sleepless Maeve Binchy night!
If you're looking for a book that will knock another off your top-5 all-time favorites list, this probably isn't it. But if you're looking for an enjoyable book and lovely prose, this is a good bet.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Clash of Burgundies April 1 2001
Joanne Harris seems to have found her niche by adding magical elements to a story. The secret to her success is that both the story and the characters would be interesting even without the magic. In Blackberry Wine we have the main character, a writer, Jay Mackintosh (a name to suit the fruit motif), who seems to spend the entire novel finding out that he has a backbone and can stand up to someone. By the time he does it, we love the guy and do approve of the values which motivate his final choice. (I'm not going to tell you the end of the book!) But still his act seems to be a passive aggressive one based on destruction rather than really confronting Kelly, his former girlfriend. The supporting characters in the book are all outstanding. Marise d'Api is a marvelous character, masterfully written, who develops as we learn more about her. Even the flat characters who do not change such as Rosa the daughter, Josephine at the restaurant, and Mireille the domineering mother-in-law the are engaging. I even loved the goat, Popette. The scenes from the past are also populated with interesting characters, Gilly, Zeth and Brenda. And finally there is Joe, this magical guy who seems like a blue collar mystic who can astral project. The book has a good rhythm and pacing. The alternating of chapters between the past and present give the story and interesting dual line progression which converge near the end. I was glad I had spent some time in this world. Although the main character's inner struggle is kind of like a clash of burgundies which didn't totally satisfy me, I think most readers will be glad to have read the book.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth reading
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... Read more
Published 3 months ago by patricia o malley
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks for a riveting tale ... read in 2.5 days!
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. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ally Alias
5.0 out of 5 stars Joanne Harris's best novel
I've read this novel twice, and the second time was even better than the first for the nuances that a rereading revealed. Read more
Published on April 18 2010 by Phoebe
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Surprise
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... Read more
Published on June 3 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Message in a Bottle
Having read Chocolat, I realized Harris is a kindred spirit...the sci-fi, the food, the memories, the spirituality. Read more
Published on May 26 2002 by ChowhoundPlus
5.0 out of 5 stars It Stays With You
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... Read more
Published on May 23 2002 by Jeanne Cumby
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 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
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