Blackberry Wine Hardcover – Large Print, May 2001
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished 20 months ago by patricia o malley
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 morePublished 22 months ago by Ally Alias
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 morePublished on June 3 2002
Having read Chocolat, I realized Harris is a kindred spirit...the sci-fi, the food, the memories, the spirituality. Read morePublished on May 26 2002 by ChowhoundPlus
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 morePublished on May 23 2002 by Jeanne Cumby
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 morePublished on April 18 2002 by A. Alcott
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 morePublished on April 1 2002 by ParisPieInTheSky
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 morePublished on March 31 2002 by KellyAnne
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 morePublished on March 12 2002 by trikolka