Blackberry Wine ペーパーバック – 2001/4/1
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Jay Mackintosh is trapped by memory in the old familiar landscape of his childhood, to which he longs to return. A bottle of home-brewed wine left to him by a long-vanished friend seems to provide the key to an old mystery. As the unusual properties of the strange brew take effect, Jay escapes to a derelict farmhouse in the French village of Lansquenet.
There, 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?
"Touching, funny and clever" (Daily Telegraph)
"A lively and original talent" (The Sunday Times)
"Joanne Harris has the gift of conveying her delight in the sensuous pleasures of food, wine, scent and plants... Blackberry Wine has all the appeal of a velvety scented glass of vintage wine" (Daily Mail)
"Thickly sensuous, wildly indulgent magical escapism: Chocolat lovers will drink deeply" (Guardian)
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Jay tries to revive himself by buying a farmhouse in France (he lives in London when the story starts) and starting a new book there. The book goes well, but Jay's life gets worse. He begins having hallucinations about people from the past showing up in his life in the present and welcomes these delusions as relief from his unsatisfying life. By the time I'd gotten this far in the book I was seriously wondering about Jay's mental state; I'd call him deeply delusional and suffering hallucinations and deep dissociation from the present. There's a little commentary on the process of being a writer and living in an imaginary world, but Jay's condition goes well beyond that. He abandons his girlfriend in London and starts chasing after a reclusive woman in France, who he eventually beds. She's communications challenged, like most people in this book, which is supposed to heighten the suspense but only comes off as an irritation.
The end of the book is unbelievable. The recluse harbors a dark secret which comes out of nowhere and derails the entire book, and Jay takes it all in stride and decides to become an accessory after the fact to a murder. Jay's London girlfriend finds him in France and decides to help him launch his new book to be a big success, but he decides that would change the local village too much, so he destroys the only copy of his book, depriving himself of a living. This guy is a LOSER, what do these women see in him?
This book is well written and enjoyable in places, but overall I seriously disliked the main character and the direction of the plot. If I had a single complaint it's that the book is very slow for the first two thirds and then throws too many curve balls in the last forty pages. I thought Joanne Harris had a grasp on her plotting and characters, it wasn't a matter of an author going out of control, it's that I just didn't *like* the characters or the plot. Without those there isn't much left to enjoy in a book!
And in the end magic does win. It is the magic that is within each of us unless we squash it, as we too often do. Light and enjoyable. A welcome respit from today's global and violent insanity.
The story alternates between memories of Pog Hill, the small town he lost (converted into upscale housing developments) and Lansquenet, the small town he has found and wants to keep. All is not as it seems in Lansquenet, especially with his neighbor, and forces are at work to make the town into another tourist destination. Jay finds himself caught up in events, and drinking Joe's wine (his "specials") seems to bring back Joe, and redirects Jay's life.
There is something about the specials, and unexpected value in Joe's seed collection. There is more than one way to revive a town that is in decline. And the blackberry wine, well, that is the last bottle, and you have to read the novel to get there.