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The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce: A Novel in Four Vintages [Hardcover]

Paul Torday
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

7 Feb 2008

'You really love me don't you?' she said.

'Of course I do.'

'It's hard to tell because you never talk much. You've never really had any fun in your life at all, have you?'

'No, but that's about to change.'

Late one summer evening, Wilberforce - rich, young, work-obsessed and self-contained - makes an unexpected detour on the way home from the software company he owns and unwittingly takes the first step on a journey that will change his life.

His uncharacteristically impulsive act leads him to the door of Caerlyon Hall, to the vast undercroft beneath it, and the domain of Francis Black, a place where wine, hospitality and affection flow freely. Through Francis, the eccentric and enigmatic owner of Caerlyon, Wilberforce is initiated into a life he could never have imagined: a life rich in the promise of friendship and adventure, where, through his new set of friends, with their shooting parties and stately homes, the possibility of finding acceptance, and even falling in love, seems finally to be within his reach.

As his horizon broadens and his heart expands, Wilberforce becomes a willing pupil to Francis's master, and in the cellars of Caerlyon he nurtures a new-found passion for fine wine.

But even the finest wine can leave a bitter aftertaste, and Wilberforce will learn that the undercroft holds some unpalatable secrets, and that passion comes at a price.

Chronicling the vintage years of Wilberforce's life, The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce is a dazzling, haunting story of obsession and addiction, of loyalty and betrayal.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st edition (7 Feb 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297851594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297851592
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 407,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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More About the Author

Paul Torday was born in 1946 and read English Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford. He spent the next 30 years working in engineering and in industry, after which he scaled back his business responsibilities to fulfil a long-harboured ambition - to write.

He burst on to the literary scene in 2006 with his first novel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, an immediate bestseller that has been sold in 19 countries.

He is married with two sons by a previous marriage and has two stepsons and lives close to the River North Tyne.

Product Description


¿Remarkably, given the bleakness of both subject and hero, it is an incredibly good read.' (Marianne MacDonald DAILY TELEGRAPH)

What makes us want to find out about Wilberforce is Torday's wonderful prose - the same simple, clear writing that made Salmon Fishing so readable. (Susan Elderkin FINANCIAL TIMES)

he has a good feeling for character and a sly sense of humour (David Robson SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

a well-told tale.. Torday wryly observes Wilberforce's descent (Paul Dunn THE TIMES)

grows more and more poignant as the novel progresses.. satisfyingly full-bodied and slips down a treat (Peter Parker SUNDAY TIMES)

marks him out as a writer of serious promise, whose achievements in this second novel hint at bigger, better works to come. (Fiona McCann IRISH TIMES)

Torday tells ths story in reverse, a familiar narrative device used effectively here (Shyamantha Asokan THE BIG ISSUE)

a really good book by a really talented writer (A BOOK A WEEK BLOGSPOT)

the pages practically turn themselves and the closing lines of the book, after such a heady brew, are so deliciously sobering (JOHN SELF ASYLUM BLOGSPOT)

the whole book is delightfully written.. Paul Torday is a remarkably original novelist (David Sexton EVENING STANDARD)

Telling the story back-to-front allows Torday to highlight Wilberforce's self-delusion; he's that familiar figure, the alcoholic who pretends that he's merely a connoissuer (Josh Lacey GUARDIAN)

exceptionally accomplished.. second novels are notoriously difficult to pull off but Torday has managed a near masterpiece (Virginia Blackburn DAILY EXPRESS)

Torday's confidence in his story's power to command attention is not mispaced.. Wilberforce is well worth sampling (Nicola Smyth INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

You Really Must Read: "beguiling novel by the author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, about a wine snob's bad alcoholic manners" (SUNDAY TIMES)

slips down a treat (THE WEEK)

Four stars - a "subtly comic novel" (Claire Allfree METRO)

another quirky offering from a true original (Iain Finlayson SAGA)

a heart-wrenching tale of alcoholism and a lonely man's search for identity.. a mesmerising page-turner (Anthony Gardner Mail on Sunday)

(the plot) provides Torday with copious opportunities for comedy, which he readily exploits. But there is a serious undertone (Nina Kelly Time Out)

Book Description

The new novel from the bestselling author of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
This item has not been released yet and is not eligible to be reviewed. Reviews shown are from other formats of this item.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, dark...not funny 24 Jun 2008
By William
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Now here's a good example of why it's not a good idea to judge a book by its cover. Its design echoes that of Torday's wonderfully funny and original debut Salmon Fishing In The Yemen; so much so that, had you not read the reviews, you could be forgiven for buying The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce assuming that you had your hands on another hilarious and rather touching novel. Well, this isn't very touching and it's certainly not funny.
In fact, it's a relatively dark read about the nature and destructive impact of loneliness. It's also, in rather a big way, about an almost sexual obsession with wine. The two themes are knitted together around a plot which is deftly turned inside out and re-ordered.
Torday is quite some writer: stylish and terribly readable. He has produced two such startlingly different novels that you wonder what's coming next.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable entertainment 2 Oct 2008
By unlikely_heroine VINE VOICE
In 2006, Wilberforce is an alcoholic close to killing himself through his prolific wine consumption of four or five bottles a day. Regularly barred from the high-end restaurants he visits in search of the most exclusive and expensive vintages, Wilberforce does not appreciate that he is addicted; he views himself as a wine connoisseur, even when he wakes up in hospital from an alcohol-induced coma. From this engaging beginning, Paul Torday takes the reader back to three previous years of Wilberforce's life, in which we see the journey that transformed him from a young, successful businessman to a walking disaster area.

There are some darkly humorous moments in the novel, but for the most part, this is downbeat stuff. Whilst it is highly readable, a few things in the book don't quite convince; for example, the voice of Wilberforce as a man in his mid- to late thirties - even allowing for his decline and world-weariness, it's difficult to believe in the age Torday has given him. The fact that Wilberforce has a mystery family background and parentage, and that his first name is kept secret for much of the book, are curious asides that do little to add any sense of suspense or intrigue to what is essentially a tale of a messed-up life.

There are other problems. We don't get to know the Catherine character at all (although perhaps this is deliberate; she does not seem to have left an impression on Wilberforce as a truly real person, either).
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute tour de force 18 Feb 2008
By Mrs P
A tragedy, told backwards. One reviewer compained that since we know how Wilberforce ends up from the start, it loses dramatic tension: no it doesn't. The tension comes from not how he ends up, but how he got there. Really excellent read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Started well, but that was as good as it got... 17 Dec 2011
This book, in my opinion, has a great cover, an intriguing title, and an amusing first page. I was really looking forward to reading it. However, my enthusiasm, sadly, disappeared by about a third of a way through the book.
Without reiterating the story, as I would imagine that if people have got as far reading this review, they will already know it, the plot details the life of an alcoholic and the building of his relationships. The story is told in reverse. I'm not sure whether there was a specific reason for narrating the story this way; I would imagine that there was, and that I am just missing the point. But for me it didn't work. The result was that there wasn't enough depth to any character, other than Wilberforce; in particular, there was no depth to the relationship with his wife. I assume that we were supposed to care what happened to her, and in all honesty I didn't very much! This isn't a reflection on my lack of feeling; rather, it's a reflection of the fact that - for me - this book just didn't delve deep enough into the 'peripheral' characters.
As for Wilberforce, I found that his pondering all became a bit monotonous. Perhaps it would help to be a wine expert to read this (or perhaps an alcoholic?) but I just found that the constant detailed references to wine got a bit too self-important and as a result the book's humour was lost. When I bought this book, I didn't expect laughs; this was always going to be a depressing book, full of pathos and poignant reflection, but from reading the opening lines I did at least expect some wry humour, almost poking fun at the main character. Instead I was left wondering what I was supposed to feel - was I supposed to like Wilberforce and feel sorry for him; or was I supposed to lost patience with him and dislike him?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good holiday read - but not a sunny read 9 July 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I picked this book up even though I hadn't completely loved Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (which I found interesting but wasn't in a rush to finish it). I read the first few pages of The Irresistible Inheritance and then couldn't put it down.

As another reviewer says: it is a tragedy played backwards. Even though you know how Wilberforce's story ends you don't know quite how he got there until all the pieces fall into place as the book progresses. I think this structure worked very well.

This isn't a perfect novel, there are a lot of unlikeable characters - including our anti-hero However the character and his situation stayed with me for days afterwards.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 days ago by Mr. G. J. Pike
2.0 out of 5 stars as should all good books with a hook
Oh Dear. Started, as should all good books with a hook. The first chapter is really enticing and you believe that you are going to delight in the further adventures of... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Dr. Keith Charlton
2.0 out of 5 stars Conned by the blurb on the front cover
I was drawn to this book by the "A Richard & Judy book club selection" as I generally enjoy their choices even tho I'd previously not actually enjoyed Paul Torday's... Read more
Published 4 months ago by pritchins
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant offering
The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce is the second novel by British author, Paul Torday. When Torday introduces his narrator, Wilberforce, it is 2006 and he is an... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Cloggie Downunder
5.0 out of 5 stars The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce
One of the best books I've read and I've read a lot of books.

The way in which the book was structured was breath taking.

Torday's books are exceptional.
Published 7 months ago by Sue O'Connell
4.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing black comedy
I don't have a great deal to add to what's already been said, but i did enjoy this story a lot. I think a reader who wants to feel good would not enjoy it because it's one of those... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. A. S. Rotunno
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant book
A brilliant book - the first of Torday we had read. Would not hesitate to recommend any of his books.
Published 13 months ago by Mr. I. J. Stevenson
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious
There are so many problems with this book that its quite daunting where to start. I certainly never ever want to read a novel that has any reference to wine in it ever again!! Read more
Published 13 months ago by D. Sedgwick
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and sad but captivating writing
The Irresistible Inheritance Of Wilberforce by Paul Torday was a book I picked up in a charity shop thinking it looked an intriguing read. Read more
Published 13 months ago by C. Kidd
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read but dark
fantastic, engaging read but a desperately sad story. I know it doesn't work for everyone but the story being told backwards really highlights Wilberforce's road to demise.
Published 14 months ago by John
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