"The Vintner's Luck"
(Picador USA, Paperback, First Edition, 2000, read: September 00)
"One summer evening in 1808, Sobran Jodeau, filled with wine and love sorrows, stumbles through his family's vineyard in Burgundy. As Sobran sways in a drunken swoon, an angel appears out of nowhere to catch him. Once he gets over his shock, Sobran decides that Xas, the male angel, is his guardian sent to counsel him on everything from marriage to wine production. But Xas turns out to be far more mysterious than angelic."
This is the story of the friendship between a vintner and an angel. From 1808 until 1863 the vintner Sobran is visited (almost) every year by the angel Xas. But it's never quite clear if Xas is a guardian angel as Sobran assumes at first or if Xas belongs to quite another hierarchy of angels. After all Lucifer is a fallen angel, too.
The book is quite unusual in structure and language. Every chapter represents one year and mainly takes place at the one day of the year the angel comes to visit. One only knows from their nightly conversations what happens in Sobrans life at the other 364 days. And if nothing happens the chapters sometimes are only half a page long.
Every chapter is titeled with an expression from the vintner's language, from "Vin Bourru" (new wine) to "Vinifié" (turned into wine). A nice and original introduction into the chapter and the atmosphere of the story.
The language of the story is not easy, especially if English is not your main language. But this shouldn't frighten you. If you like stories about unusual friendships this is the book to read. It's the first by New Zealand born Elizabeth Knox which has been published outside of her home country. One can be curious when we will be allowed to read her other works and what's new in store.
[Dorothée Büttgen, October 00]
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