Layman’s alchemy, the magic of everyday things, that’s what Blackberry Wine is all about. A pleasant, smooth and enjoyable story told from the point of view of a wine bottle
Published in 2000 after her smashing bestseller Chocolat, Joanne Harris revisited many themes from that first novel, the most central of which is “magical realism”. It’s not fantasy in the strict meaning of the word, but her stories have a thread of magic weaved through them that, whether you choose to embrace it or dismiss it, you will nonetheless savour it.
Narrated by a Fleurie ’62, a vintage bottle of wine from the year Jay Mackintosh was born, Blackberry Wine follows the story of Jay, a once-successful writer who hasn’t been able to write anything of value since his breakthrough novel fourteen years earlier. Jackapple Joe was the only bestseller he wrote and it was based on his childhood adventures during three summers he spent in the Yorkshire town of Kirby Monckton. Joe Cox, or Jackapple Joe, was the old eccentric man Jay had met during those three summers and who had disappeared abruptly at the end of them. He was the one who taught Jay about the simple magic around us in everyday things.
At the age of 37 and suffering from writer’s block, Jay, on a whim, buys an old farmhouse in the French country side hoping to escape from his life and his demons. With him he takes his typewriter and six bottles of wine, called “The Specials”, the only thing he salvaged after Joe disappeared.
As Jay works on rebuilding the old farmhouse he also rebuilds himself and begins to explore the village of Lansquenet and its people. Gradually, the sceptical residents of the village begin to accept him as one of their own and among them and in the bottles of The Specials he finds the magic and inspiration that help him pour out page after page of what could become his new novel.
Over the course of 400 pages, Joanne Harris takes us back and forth exploring Jay’s life today in his old house and the fictional French village of Lansquenet and his childhood in Yorkshire with Joe. Little by little the story comes together as Jay faces his demons and once again embraces the magic in his life.
Blackberry wine is one of those stories that you want to keep going back to. Through her prose, Joanne Harris achieves for you, the reader, the same simple magic her characters talk about so that when you finish Blackberry Wine you will feel elevated and satisfied without knowing why. “Layman’s alchemy. The magic of everyday things.”
Joanne Harris has a thing for food. She has written 16 novels and two cookbooks! Her three novels, Chocolat, Blackberry Wine and Three Quarters of The Orange, are known as The Food Trilogy. She is at her best when describing flavours and the different feelings and moods those flavours evoke in her characters as well as he readers.
A story about childhood nostalgia, a writer’s journey a French village and the secrets of its townsfolk, Blackberry Wine will not disappoint. A delicious read that will go down easily.