Most helpful critical review
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Good but not blackberry wine!
on 14 January 2003
It is true that my full enjoyment of this novel was somewhat limited due to the fact that I originally bought a cheap copy from a second hand book shop and half way through found a printing error had substituted the middle three chapters for a repetition of the first three. I was not happy! However I believe it does say something for the story that I went straight out and bought a complete, full priced version to catch up on the parts that I had missed.
Coastliners is good. There is no doubt about that. The plot is strong as are the characters. Anyone who read the first few chapters would be compelled to read to the end. Joanne Harris' empathy with the town or village community is particularly moving in this story. She has a remarkable ability to portray a small, secure yet claustrophobic community, she does it so completely that by the end of the book, you could recognise each character if they were walking dwon the street. At the same time as drawing on caricature so well that you recognise immediately the type of person she means, yet she has a sensitivity that draws deeper so that the reader can identify with the character as an individual.
For my own reading of this novel, I do feel that in concentrating on twist and turns in the plot, and the differing relationships between the characters, Harris has lost something of the succulent imagery that has become her trade mark. Strong flavours enhance her earlier stories, sweets, sours, fruit and wine, natural flavours that work with instinct and overpower the senses. Chocolat, Blackberry Wine and Five Quarters of the Orange are a dazzling gastronomic feast, tastes and smells vivid. Coastliners leave you hungry.
While I really did enjoy Coastliners and I could not put it down till I had found out the destinies of each character, afterward I still found something lacking. I have always idenified with Harris weaving the physical pleasures, eating and drinking, smells and scents, together with the emotional turmoils of year to year life. Coastliners deals with the ups and downs of life, without weaving the heady imagery of her earlier books. For the time being, Blackberry Wine will remain my favourite Joanne Harris novel, the images and characters through that story stayed with me a long time and for me it is the most potent and appealing of her novels (though I do think that may have something to do with the fact that it is narrated by a bottle of wine!).