The Vintner's Luck

by Elizabeth Knox | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0374283923 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 8/6/2003
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, August 06, 2003
From New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox, this is one of the more unusual books I've read lately; it's the chronicle of more than 50 years in the life of a 19th-century French peasant and vineyard owner, who accidentally meets an angel one night... At first young Sobran is terrified, but then decides that the angel's been sent to counsel him about the woman he wants to marry. They share some wine, and talk a little, and the angel agrees to return in a year's time, to toast the marriage. And so it goes; the next year the angel does reappear, shares the news and more wine, and agrees to return every year. And the story unfolds year by year, centering on the one night when Sobran meets Xas, the angel, sometimes including more events that occurred in between. And time passes...

Sobran's away from home some years, and wonders as he slogs along with the army whether Xas came to the hillside and waited for him; when he returns home, their meetings resume, but a tragedy intensifies their relationship. Later, Xas reveals something about himself that terrifies Sobran so badly that he hides away for considerable time. And, eventually, the two fall in love, which has shocking consequences - but even after that, the years roll by, the vines (and Sobran's family) grow, the wines mature, and Sobran and Xas meet, or write, or think about each other. It's a leisurely fable of a perilous relationship, with occasional touches on spirituality, family, and aging. I found it beautiful, frightening, and very sad - but I'm glad I read it. [There's a murder-mystery subplot as well, and another segment that suggests a definition of "Heaven" that's unlike most that I've heard, and that I found rather heart-breaking.]

By coincidence, I was reading Thomas Lynch's "Bodies in Motion and At Rest" at about the same time as this one, and I came across this quote from Michael Heffernan's "A Sign from Heaven"; it sounded to me very much like something that Xas might say:
Sometimes I need love's answer to the question
about the breathing creatures and their pain.
I shouldn't be comfortable with the easy one
that claims the very daylight is a sign
of transubstantial warmth among the stars -
though there was brightness over town and countryside.
[Update, 2010: I just learned that the book's been adapted to film; see the IMDB entry here. From the reviews it sounds as though the role of the angel was reduced and modified quite a bit, which is disappointing, but I expect I'll try to see the movie anyway.]

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, August 16, 2003
Controlled release:

I've lent this one to my sister in New York.

*** Later: book's back home again...

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing at Surf Restaurant, 207 Main St. in Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Friday, April 09, 2004
Released on Friday, April 09, 2004 at Surf Restaurant, 207 Main St. in Nashua, New Hampshire USA.

I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to part with this book - just dipping into it briefly makes me want to read it again - but I think I'll release it anyway and let it be discovered by someone else.

I plan to leave this on the table by the pay phone in the rear entrance hall of Surf restaurant, some time between 6 and 7 pm.

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