Thursday, August 13

Book Review: Blackberry Wine

Title: Blackberry Wine

Author: Joanne Harris

Pages: 334

Summary: 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.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Harris did a beautiful job at describing all of the sensations, and experiences one has while drinking a glass of wine, and brings those emotions into her characters combined with the divulging into the world of wine making and life in a small town, the bonds a person can have with in close-knit communities, and how those bonds affect a person’s life, Blackberry Wine was a well written, beautifully told story, that pulled me in from page one.

In the story, Jay flees England buying a farm house in a outside a small town, that brought back memories of a childhood mentor, he brings a few possessions, including the six bottles of “specials” (wine) and a typewriter, that he uses to write his next big hit, gaining inspiration from the towns people and a “scandal” that happened years before he arrived. But instead, the “specials” invoke something different for Jay, as he reminisces his childhood years, times spent with his mentor, and him reconnecting to his mentor, as he find himself again, and his place in life. All of the emotions and memories are brought out with each bottle of wine from the “specials” collection which brings out memories, senses and emotions from all people, when they join him. The wine, as it seems has a bit of magical ability, allowing people to explore themselves in their pasts.

As you can see there’s a bit of an interesting underbelly of magic here with the wine. Often the wine is described as talking, or laughing as it sits in the duffel bag, or in the wine cellar, and often the narrator states when the each bottle is open, the “wine’s” voice is exposed. What makes the book even more interesting is that the narrator is a bottle of wine. The whole story is told from the eyes, of an unopened bottle of wine, which truly is one of the most unique methods of narration I’ve ever seen. And if you already have guessed, the story ends, when the bottle is opened and drunk.

Other parts of the story contained farming life, small town life and gossip of the scandal that happened in the town, involving Jay’s neighbour, I won’t go to far into that, for fear of ruining it, but I liked that side plot of the story, although parts were predictable, I still enjoyed that part of the story. The book also bounces around time periods a bit, going from present time, to years in Jay’s childhood, although each chapter labels which time you’re in so you shouldn’t be confused what time period you’re in.

One criticism is that some of the characters seem to be one sided, and a little stereotypical, it’s not a big issue for me, because there’s only a few I really found to be like this, but there were just a few characters, that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story, they just were. Also there was this one part, I can’t say what, but the one part near the end was a little weird, and also didn’t seem to fit with the story.

Overall a wonderful book full of magic, and the quiet life of small town living, and the emotions and deliciousness of wine drinking and the powers it can has over ones emotions, self and friendship.

Would I recommend it to read: Yes, especially with a glass of good wine. It's a perfect book club book, or a book to share with friends, and it makes you thirst for wine and French Culture.

What to read next: Choclat also by Joanne Harris, I haven't read it myself, but have heard great things about it and it takes place in the same small town.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, August Reading Challenge, Chick-Lit Challenge


  1. I don't actually like wine, so I might have a bit more trouble relating to a book like this. I do have Chocolat and its sequel on my shelf, patiently waiting for me, though.

  2. This sounds like such an interesting read. A bottle of wine as the narrator! I think I'll keep my eye out for this one.

  3. I love Joanne Harris and recently bought Holy Fools and Sleep, Pale Sister. Have you read either of those? I think I have all of her books at this point, and I have yet to read a few of them, including Blackberry Wine. I think the narrator being the wine bottle is a really unique idea and I think the story sounds really engaging, Hopefully I get a chance to read this one soon. Great review!

  4. The Bottle of Wine narrating is really neat, so different.

    This is the only novel I've read by her, but I've been meaning to pick Chocolat.