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The Vintner's Luck Paperback – August 5, 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Vintner's Luck Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"A week after midsummer, when the festival fires were cold, and decent people were in bed an hour after sunset, not lying dry-mouthed in dark rooms at midday, a young man named Sobran Jodeau stole two of the freshly bottled wines to baptize the first real sorrow of his life."

The year is 1808, the place Burgundy, France. Among the lush vines of his family's vineyard, Jodeau, 18 years old and frustrated in love, is about to come face to face with a celestial being. But this is no sentimental "Touched by an Angel" seraph; as imagined by Elizabeth Knox in her wildly evocative and original novel, Xas is equipped with a glorious pair of wings ("pure sinew and bone under a cushion of feathers") and an appetite for earthly pleasures--wine, books, gardening, conversation, and, eventually, carnal love.

The fateful meeting between man and angel occurs on June 27. After an evening during which Sobran spills all his troubles and Xas gently advises him, the angel promises to return on the same night next year to toast Sobran's marriage. Thus begins a friendship that will last for 55 years, spanning marriages, wars, births, deaths, and even the vast distances between heaven, earth, and hell. In addition to the wonderfully flawed Sobran and his mysterious angel, Knox brilliantly limns secondary characters who are deeply sympathetic--from Sobran's unstable wife, Celeste, and his troubled brother, Leon, to his dear friend and confidante, the Baroness Aurora. Love, murder, madness, and a singular theology that would make a believer out of the most hardened atheist all add up, in The Vintner's Luck, to a novel that will break your heart yet leave you wishing for more. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This imaginative story of the lifelong love between a man and an angel is the first of Knox's five books to appear outside her native New Zealand. In Burgundy one midsummer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau, then 18, climbs to the ridge of his father's lands with two freshly bottled wines to lament his love troubles. Stumbling drunkenly, he is caught by the angel Xas, who smells of snow and describes himself "of the lowest of the nine orders. Unmentioned in Scripture and Apocrypha." They share the bottles, and Xas promises that this night next year he will toast Sobran's marriage?leading Sobran to believe Xas is his protector and guide. Sobran marries the woman whose family strain of insanity his father fears, marches with the Grand Army to Moscow, inherits his father's vineyards and begins to prosper under his angelic "luck." However, Xas proves far different from a guardian angel, and as years pass (the meetings on midsummer eve continue, with some exceptions, to 1863) their attachment shifts, severs then mends, as Xas's complicated relationship with God and Lucifer gradually unfolds. Each year's meeting constitutes one chapter, titled with the name of a wine, from 1808, Vin Bourro (new wine), to 1863, Vinifie (to turn into wine). This by-annum structure makes possible a number of intriguing plot turns but prohibits a smooth narrative flow. Most intriguing are the glimpses we get of Hell, which Xas reveals is entered through a salt dome in Turkey, and Heaven, accessible through the lake of an Antarctic volcano. In Hell there is one copy of everything ever written, but in Heaven angels are the only copies God tolerates?copies of man, who is in turn the copy of a woman. And Heaven, we learn in a clever epilogue dated 1997, looks like the Titanic. While this conception of an alternate universe is the novel's significant achievement, Knox's failure to convey a fully realized narrative voice (except in the portions where the characters write letters to each other) may leave the reader feeling impressed but not totally enthusiastic.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (August 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312264100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312264109
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #944,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Set in Burgundy and spanning the years 1808 to 1863, The Vintner's Luck tells the magical, spellbinding story of Sobran Jodeau, a vintner from the village of Aluze. On a midsummer's night, Sobran's life is forever changed when he is visited by an angel named Xas, a gorgeous creature with wings that smell of snow. The Vintner's Luck is definitely a character-driven novel and while each character certainly shines, it is the love and friendship shared by Sobran, the Baroness Aurora and the angel Xas that steals the show--and the reader's heart. All, however, is not sweetness and light. The scene in which Lucifer visits Xas and the consequences that follow are heartbreaking to the core. I could find absolutely no mistakes in this perfect novel. The characters were fully drawn and believable, the prose lyrical yet clear, and the pacing perfect throughout. The Vintner's Luck is a book that achieves enormous depth while retaining a simple, fairy-tale quality--all to the good. Anyone who reads The Vintner's Luck should be prepared to bask in its spell for years to come.
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Format: Hardcover
Well, it was funny, gentle, frustrating, beautiful, infuriating, confusing, simple, convoluted, completely believable, sad, happy, strange, familiar, erotic, stern, playful, poetic, choppy. In effect, everything under the sun!
The reason to read this highly engaging, luminous novel is the angel; Xas is one of the best characters I have come across. A beautiful, distant, earthy, gentle, erotic, subtle angel, touched by God and Lucifer both, he is well worth all the trying, annoying, bland, and confusing parts that pepper the story.
Right behind him is Aurora, a wonderfully written character, so much more strong, gentle, wise, and clever than Sobran (if you don't believe me, just ask Lucifer!). She's another fabulous new literary character, a perfect complement to Sobran and Xas.
Like all truly great novels, this one at times is trying, and other times slow, and other times almost self-indulgent, but all of these supposed "inadequacies" actually make the story more real, more strong, more original, more memorable. All the classic novels have their fair share of irritating or confusing parts; it's almost a calling card of sorts.
Altogether, the book is wonderful, with highly original ideas, plots, and characters, with twists on every cliche and philospophy of God and religion and angels. Read it!!!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About two-thirds of the way through the book, Xas declares that "Complete symmetry is an insult to God." It is at this point that the reader realizes that many of the key elements in the book have been marked by cases of symmetry. From the two murders committed by a key character in the book to the results of the relationship once Sobran takes a male lover as a complement to his wife, the evil that is manifested in the book is caused by "complete symmetry." On the other hand, "incomplete symmetry" brings much of the "good" portrayed in the book. For instance, Aurora loses one breast to cancer, and lives. Also, the characters regain their luck once Sobran takes a second lover to complement the relationships he has with his wife and his male lover.
So, what is the author trying to say? Is she saying that only God can be perfect, and therefore He tolerates no attempt by any lesser being to achieve perfection? If that's so, then is God purposely inciting chaos in order to keep humans from attaining symmetry? And finally, is she saying that for humans to strive to attain what is the province of the divine is pointless because God will never give up that feature that defines Him?
As always, there is a danger of reading too much into a book. But, the fact that this book can spark such introspection and debate makes it stand out among the countless other collections of words filling the bookstores. Even if these qualities are not appealing, The Vintner's Luck offers many other charms. The characters are solidly written and the dialogue is superb. It is our luck that The Vintner's Luck has come along. It makes us realize that literature of this caliber still has a place on all of our bookshelves.
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Format: Paperback
Synopsis: A young vintner, Sobran Jodeau, meets an angel called Xas in his vinyard in 1808. The story covers the next 55 years of Sobran's life, his once yearly visit from Xas, and the impact of their relationship on themselves, Sobran's family and friends.

This book has some of the best writing I have read in a long time. Elizabeth Knox explores themes such as love, desire, loss, sorrow and madness in a way that still has me thinking about the characters days after I've finished. It is full of the kinds of sentences that make me stop and think, and become favourite quotes (I particularly loved 'Despair is gravity'). All of the characters are written with explanations of their inner worlds and motivations, so that I couldn't help but feel compassion and tenderness for them, even when their behaviour includes infidelity and murder. I found most of this story had me feeling both joy and heartbreak simultaneiously as the characters experience the consequences of their choices, and the impact of other people's choices on themselves.

So why only 3 stars? Firstly, the format is set out as short sections covering each yearly visit. For me, this made it very difficult to get into the flow of the book, it felt disjointed with a slow pace. However, this did improve in the last third of the book where the sections become larger and cover more events.

Secondly, I very nearly gave up on this book. It is clear from the outset this is a character driven story, but the characters are not developed until the second third of the book. Once they are developed it makes plodding through the first third worthwhile. If you are thinking about giving up, I encourage you to keep going, it gets better!

And lastly, they say good writing 'shows' not 'tells'.
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