Friday, 25 March 2011

Book #13 The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox

The Vintner's Luck
Unlucky Number 13. Or not.

I found this book in a strange shop in Akaroa, New Zealand which sold everything from gollywogs to fudge. I was keen to read a book by a Kiwi author and my sister suggested Elizabeth Knox. I had hoped to read a book set in New Zealand, but in fact The Vintner's Luck is set in the vineyards of 19th Century France.

I am really loathe to even mention this book in the same sentence as One Day, let alone compare the two as though they were equals but the basic premise is the same.
When he is 18, Sobran Jodeau gets drunk, and stumbles across an angel, from there Sobran and the angel Xas meet each year on one day, the 27th of June for many years.

When I initially attempted to read this book, carting it from motel to motel, I found it odd, and couldn't get into it. Though its chronological, the jump from June to June made it feel disjointed as though a natural progression was missing. However, I decided that in my iPad addiction I had left paperbacks I had bought unloved and unfinished and decided I should finish them before getting any more electronic books.

I'm glad I did, the initial oddness i felt faded the more I read it, and I came to feel passionately that this was a book of beauty, a gem with a lyrical, magical quality to it. It's uniqueness and originality in every respect seems to make it defy normal descriptions. The juxtaposition of the human and the divine, the elements that seem to be inspired by Paradise Lost. The warm believable love, the dark secrets and mysteries, the allusions to insanity and even to evil, make this book although couched in the reality of wine production seem like a fairytale for adults, and an extraordinary one that.

I tend to like anything that inspires theological or philosophical thought, and whilst I recognise this isn't for everyone, I still think there's so much more to The Vintner's Luck , something for everyone. I would tell anyone turned off by the idea that it is about an angel, and therefore possibly religious to think again, as by not reading it for that reason you would be losing out on what I felt was a rich even sensual experience.

Read this book. 10/10


  1. Here via Julian Bray's Twitter, and I agree entirely. The book entranced me and has never really let me go. The last line breaks me, every time. I heard the other day that there's a sequel, although I don't know how true that is.

  2. Hello Erastes,

    Thanks so much for being the first person to comment on my blog! I was beginning to think no-one ever would. I can't really see how a sequel would work in relation to the novel as a whole unless it focused solely on Xas, and even then...I often think sequels must better the book they follow or risk tarnishing the original in some way, & your thoughts about the characters thereafter. I am certainly going to try some of her other novels though.

  3. THE ANGEL’S CUT, by Elizabeth Knox (VUP, $35). The Vintner’s Luck needs a sequel the way the Moonlight Sonata needs a heavy-metal version. So why saddle it with one? The only good answer to this question is a sequel so good it sits on the original not like a saddle, but like a halo; and that is the answer Knox provides. Knox brings her angel, Xas, into the early 20th century – mostly Hollywood in the 1920s and 30s, where he mingles with the great personalities of film (a medium with which Knox had a less satisfying time this year when Niki Caro’s version of The Vintner’s Luck reached the big screen).

  4. Hi Jenny,

    Yes, I noticed there was a DVD but that the film itself had not even been shown in cinemas here, which left me thinking it would be best avoided, now I know there's a sequel I'm really torn about getting my hands on it in case of disappointment. i hope if i do it's as good as you say. As it is I am unsure if it will be out in the UK and I might need my sister to ship it in from NZ!!

  5. There is a UK edition published by Vintage with a cover similar to the Vintage Vintners

  6. Hi Jenny, Yes I've just seen that now, for some reason, I searched "The Angel's Halo"!!! Dim! Unfortunately i just bought about 9 books to read and blog, The Angel's Cut shall have to wait.... :)