Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book! From a fan of nothing but literary fiction, March 5, 2008
This review is from: The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty (Hardcover)
I just LOVED this book. I wasn't sure I would, simply because I read almost nothing but literary fiction. But it was so readable, and had so many of the things I love about fiction - a great story, interesting characters, good writing, evocative settings - that I couldn't put it down.

There is something so epic about the story of the Mondavi family. As you read, you can't help but think of all the family dynasties that have self-imploded; there are echoes of King Lear, of Oedipus, of all the founders whose basic character flaws are the seeds of the family's undoing. To watch the Mondavi family rise so spectacularly from its' immigrant roots, and then fall from its' own weight, is so timeless, so sad, and so compelling.

One of the book's great strengths is its' perfect blend of journalism and storytelling. The Mondavi story is full of juicy facts - wild parties and love affairs and alcoholism - that a lesser author would milk for profit. Siler, however, treats them with the even-handedness of the journalist she is. At the same time, Siler elevates the book well above the dryness of much non-fiction with her skillful storytelling, and brings to vibrant life so many scenes in the lives of the Mondavi family and the Napa Valley.

Witness, for example, the masterful storytelling of the prologue, set in a wine auction in June 2005. This scene encapsulates a turning point for the Robert Mondavi Corp., the beginning of the end. The aging Robert Mondavi, in his wheelchair and bolero hat, has sold his lot of wine at a fire-sale price, while a boutique wine has just sold for a quarter-million per lot. "Robert and Timothy (Mondavi) stared up at the screen, silent in the midst of the raucous celebration of the bid. They seemed isolated, as the Hoopla Commitee and the television camera moved elsewhere. For that moment the Mondavis were no longer the center of attention. When the spotlight returned in the the months to come, it would blaze mercelessly on the dismemberment of their empire." Wow.

I highly recommend this book. It is readable, interesting, well-written, and a fascinating story. And it's fun to discuss over a glass of wine.
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