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The Vintner's Luck: A Novel Hardcover – December 3, 1998
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"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
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.
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Rarely do I come across fiction that, in its spartan, beautiful efficiency, conjures such depth. The author's inspiration and passion for her characters comes through in each chapter, each separated by one year. The story, like the relationship between Sobran Jodeau and his night visitor, matures like fine wine, year after year, chapter after chapter, as it inches towards perfection and mortal death. The images that Knox paints about Heaven and Hell, good and evil, mortality and immortality are fragile and precious and will leave a lasting impression on your literary palette.
Perishable - such a wondrous word for our existence, written with love not disdain. This book will leave you filled with wondrous questions, best mulled over a good glass of wine. Magnificent.
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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Because the book left me rather speechless, you see?Read more