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The Vintner's Luck Paperback – 2 Mar 2000
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Elizabeth Knox's fifth book, her first to be published in the UK, plays out its huge themes in a small Burgundian village at the time of Napoleon. A novel of forbidden love, wine and immortality, it yields up its secrets--beautiful, tragic and horrifying--one by one, so they're as unexpected as the angel Sobran Jodeau, the young vintner, encounters in his vineyard one night in 1808. Xas is breathtakingly beautiful, has huge expressive white wings, leather trousers and smells softly of snow. He is a keen gardener, and also profoundly curious about mortals, how they feel, how they live, how they make their choices. They talk, and Xas persuades Jodeau to meet him--same time, same place--every year.
Jodeau marries, fathers children, and continues--bar a couple of years when he's off fighting, whoring and trying to keep his best friend alive on the Russian front--to meet with Xas. Their friendship deepens. Jodeau's wine improves, and the joys and troubles of village life wash around him. But this strange relationship between man and angel is inherently unstable, and following the death of Jodeau's beloved younger daughter, it veers off in a direction neither had anticipated. And then Xas tells Jodeau something that drives the vintner almost beyond madness. --Lisa Gee
"This is a gorgeous novel: as fine, rich, satiny and unpredictable as the vintages that it describes" (The Times)
"Ms Knox's philosophical scheme defies brief summary: like a witty, post-modern Milton, she rewrites the Christian myth and the whole cosmology of "Paradise Lost"" (Economist)
"A beautifully written exploration of the inexplicable, into which is woven an all-too-human chronicle of burning desire, violence, murderousness, bitter jealousy, curiosity, sexual deviations, shame and a fidelity of a sort" (The Times)
"Knox comprehends the irredeemable sadness of loss and, more than any writer I have read for years, manages to touch the heart by paring sophistry and digression from the essential cores of her characters. Beautifully written, The Vintner's Luck possesses a complex bouquet of conceits and ideas but it is the simplicity of Elizabeth Knox's writing that in the end draws out the savour of human experience and compassion" (Independent on Sunday)
"Angelic writing and inspired structure" (Guardian)
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Top customer reviews
It isn't a book you just fall into. It's choppy, whole years sometimes covered in a page or one single event representing an entire year, as the narrative flies through Sobran's WHOLE life. (But I have to add that the prose is stunningly beautiful.) It's often confusing. It's sad. It has a dubiously happy ending. But it's also heart-felt and evocative. I teared up more than once. While I didn't love the book until about 2/3 of the way through, by the end it had me wholly wrapped around itself.
I'll admit that the narrative style made the characters feel distant and the large gaps in time that the characters spent apart made it difficult for me to feel their love, but I never doubted it. It just took on a form I had to think deeper to grasp. And I don't just mean the love between Xas and Sobran. There are several types of love shown between different characters in the book, though often subtly and unremarked upon. Also, because so many chapters are presented as mere vignettes, I often was left scratching my head at the significance of certain events.
Most unusual of all, I rather enjoyed the religious aspects of the book. Xas' relationship to/with God and Lucifer, as well as his purpose between them was intriguing. I never felt preached at, as I don't think anyone ever preached.
All in all, I needed the 'See, I can read smart books too' reboot and had the added bonus of truly enjoying the read. I'm well up for more of Knox's writing in the future.
Xas is my favourite character, and just the way he is weaved into the story is magical.
Elizabeth Knox deserves to be known a lot more than she actually is - especially outside of New Zealand.
So, that gift of a book can now rank among the best presents I have ever received.
People complain about the murders sub-plot but for me they added a "The Perfume" taste I liked. I loved Xas though the last part of the book didn't stir me as much - it felt disconnected to the rest somehow.
Nevertheless, it will make you question God, Heaven, Hell, Devil, what is Good and Evil, what is love and if love is now too trivial and only supernatural characters like angels have in them the fierceness to love and lost without fearing to fall forever. It is that beautiful. Read it knowing you'll be puzzling about it for months.
The two main characters are wonderful and I felt their passion, anger and sadness as if I were there.
My imagination created the most wonderful scenes through the writing of Elizabeth Knox.
I recommend it without hesitation.
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