Joanne Harris weaves spells of "everyday magic" once again in Blackberry Wine
. Her previous novel, Chocolat
, was a delicious confection, melding together bewitchment and romance in a chocolatier, in the sleepy French village of Lansquenet. This time around six bottles of home-made brew are the catalyst for her "layman's alchemy." The story is even told by a Fleurie 1962: "A pert, garrulous wine, cheery and a little brash, with a pungent taste of blackcurrant!"
Jay Mackintosh, once a literary star, is 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." Nice, expensive wines don't do the trick, it's the six "Specials", a gift from Joe, an old friend, that are the magical elixir. Just like Proust's lime blossom tea, they give him the gift of his memories but also unlock his future; Jay escapes the rut of his London life and buys a house in Lansquenet.
As Jay settles in, he contemplates his childhood friendship with Joe, who made the Specials and whose idiosyncratic outlook on life was the inspiration for his only successful book. Jay becomes involved in village life, meeting up with some familiar characters from Chocolat. Caro and Toinette, the snooty troublemakers, make an appearance and Josephine, the bar owner and battered wife of the earlier novel, becomes a real friend. But it is a new character, the enigmatic Marise that becomes the real focus of his attention. It's the lure of her story that really changes his life, re-ignites the flare of his work.
The book is hugely enjoyable. Joanne Harris' Lansquenet is fast becoming a fairy tale destination, where daydreams become enchantingly possible. Joanne Harris's prose in Blackberry Wine adds to the spell. It's warm and heady, an intoxicating read. --Eithne Farry
"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