Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris


Perennial, 2001. ISBN 0-380-81592-3

Summary, from cover:

As a boy, writer Jay Mackintosh spent three golden summers in the ramshackle home of “Jackapple Joe” Cox. A lonely child, he found solace in Old Joe’s simple wisdom and folk charms. The magic was lost, however, when Joe disappeared without warning one fall.

Years later, Jay’s life is stalled with regret and ennui. His bestselling novel, Jackapple Joe, was published ten years earlier and he has written nothing since. Impulsively, he decides to leave his urban life in London and, sight unseen, purchases a farmhouse in the remote French village of Lansquenet. There, in that strange and yet strangely familiar place, Jay hopes to re-create the magic of those golden childhood summers. And while the spirit of Joe is calling to him, it is actually a similarly haunted, reclusive woman who will ultimately help Jay find himself again.

My thoughts:

This review will not be as in-depth or well planned as my previous ones have been. I picked Blackberry Wine up at the AAUW book sale because I liked Chocolat, which is also by Joanne Harris. This book began quite dry, but as the story progressed, it picked up pace. Yet, it lost any realism that it had in favor of imaginative twists that did not fit the story.

The characters broke the story. I did not believe Marise’s reasoning for staying at the farm to be believable. Kerry also a shoddy character, lacking any conceivable realism at the end. I wanted to reach into the story and smack her across the face. Jay himself had no depth, and his later scene with Marise made me cringe. Jay is a directionless lead, especially as the “Specials” lose their hold as the most interesting characters in the story.

Flashbacks work well for many stories, but they did not work completely for this book. Alternating every other chapter worked well for the first half, but the second half seemed to be missing something. That something was the flashbacks- and the scene with Kerry at Pog Hill felt out of place. Yes, it set Kerry up for who she becomes at the end of the story, but it did not belong to the theme.

Even though there is much to complain about regarding this book, there are highlights. A revisit to Lansquenet is very appreciated, as well as Josephine, one of my favorite characters from Chocolat. The flavor of Chocolat was not lost upon Blackberry Wine. The exposition involving Lansquenet was delectable. I could easily and vividly imagine every setting.

In the end, I was disappointed by Blackberry Wine. I expected another stunner like Chocolat, but the mix of luxurious settings and poorly defined characters made for a haphazard story. The story felt fettered and disorganized with Jay leading rather than the “Specials.” The first half, while dry, made more sense than the second half- which managed to be as twisty as the streets of Lansquenet.

1 thought on “Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris

  1. Pingback: Tidying up August | gathering swallows

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