Blackberry Wine

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( 11,231 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780380978724: Blackberry Wine

As a boy, writer Jay Mackintosh spent three golden summers in the ramshakle home of Joseph "Jackapple Joe" Cox in the tiny English town of Kirby Mockton.  Jay found solace in old Joe's simple wisdom and folk charms, in his stories of far travel and wild adventure, and in his astonishing ability to make anything grow lush and luxurious.  And then there were Joe's "Specials," his homebrewed wines, each bottle containing the sparkle of something truly magical.  The magic was lost, though, when Joe disappeared without warning one fall.

Years later, Jay's life is stalled with regret and emnui.  His novel Jackapple Joe was his artistic zenith, but it had been published ten years earlier and he has not been able to write a serious work since.  When an unsolicited real estate brochure arrives in the afternoon mail, he impulsivley abandons every urban thing he knows.  sight unseen, he purchases a farmhouse in the remote French village of Lansquenet, in an attempt to recapture the magic that vanished twenty years ago.

Now Jay is packing up a few belongings-and the last remaining bottles og Joe's "Specials"-and relocating to the sleepy village rich in stories of its own is calling to him.  There, in the strange yet strangely familiar place-and in the dark, guarded secrets of a reclusive woman and her young child-Jay Mackintosh hopes to find himself again.  for he feels that somehow, as impossible as it seems, "Jackapple Joe" is waiting for him there.

A lovely and lyrical novel of myriad enchantments, Blackberry Wire is a rare treat for the mind, the heart and the senses from an extraordinary literary talent.

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Review:

Joanne Harris's first novel, Chocolat, was set in the sleepy French village of Lansquenet, where enchantment, romance, and soft-centered truths issued from the local confectioner's shop. She returns to the same location for Blackberry Wine. But as the title suggests, she's shifted her focus from food to drink, choosing a half-dozen bottles of homemade plonk as the catalyst for her "layman's alchemy." And even the narrator is no human being but a faintly tannic Fleurie 1962: "A pert, garrulous wine, cheery and little brash, with a pungent taste of blackcurrant!"

There are, of course, some less vinous characters in the novel. Harris's protagonist, Jay Mackintosh, is a former literary star, now sadly 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." Yet the nice, expensive wines don't do the trick. Instead, six "Specials"--a gift from his old friend Joe--function as Jay's magical elixir. Like Proust's lime-blossom tisane, they give him the gift of his memories but also unlock his future, which encourages him to flee the rut of his London life and buy a house in Lansquenet.

As Jay settles in, he contemplates his childhood friendship with Joe, whose idiosyncratic outlook was the inspiration for his only successful book. Meanwhile, he becomes involved in village life, encountering some familiar faces from Chocolat. Caro and Toinette, the snooty troublemakers, soon put in an appearance, and Josephine, the bar owner and battered wife of the earlier novel, becomes a real friend. But it's a new character, the enigmatic Marise, who becomes the focus of Jay's attention--and who helps to restore his literary joie de vivre. This feat of resurrection makes for a hugely enjoyable read. It also goes one step further in adding Lansquenet to the map of imaginary destinations, where daydreams can come true with intoxicating frequency. --Eithne Farry

From the Inside Flap:

From the author of Chocolat, an intoxicating fairy tale of alchemy and love where wine is the magic elixir.

Jay Mackintosh is a 37-year-old has-been writer from London. Fourteen years have passed since his first novel, Jackapple Joe, won the Prix Goncourt. His only happiness comes from dreaming about the golden summers of his boyhood that he spent in the company of an eccentric vintner who was the inspiration of Jay's debut novel, but who one day mysteriously vanished. Under the strange effects of a bottle of Joe's '75 Special, Jay decides to purchase a derelict yet promising château in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. There, a ghost from his past waits to confront him, and his new neighbour, the reclusive Marise - haunted, lovely and dangerous - hides a terrible secret behind her closed shutters. Between them, there seems to be a mysterious chemistry. Or could it be magic?

Joanne Harris's last novel, Chocolat, was both a dazzling literary success and a commercial triumph. Chocolat, the major motion picture directed by Lasse Hallström ( The Cider House Rules), is scheduled for release in December 2000 and stars Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Dame Judy Dench, Alfred Molina, and Lena Olin.

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