The Vintner's Luck

The Vintner's Luck

3.7 4
by Elizabeth Knox
     
 

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One summer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau sets out to drown his love sorrows in his family's vineyard when he stumbles on an angel. 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 a far more mysterious character. Compelling and erotic,

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Overview

One summer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau sets out to drown his love sorrows in his family's vineyard when he stumbles on an angel. 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 a far more mysterious character. Compelling and erotic, The Vintner's Luck explores a decidedly unorthodox love story as Sobran eventually comes to love and be loved by both Xas and the young Countess de Valday, his friend and employer at the neighboring chateau.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Original, often astonishingly vivid...Xas is one of the best angels since William Blake's."—Nina Auerbach, The New York Times Book Review

"Daringly exploring the spiritual worth of sesnual pleasure, New Zealand writer Knox's imaginative, imagistic tale soars."—Entertainment Weekly

"Rich prose and an original plot...a delightful, thought-provoking read."—Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post

"Strangely compelling...multilayered and challanging...[The Vintner's Luck] is not your typical angel story."—David Tedhams, The Washington Post Book World

"Elizabeth Knox spreads her odd and original gossamer over many things....[Her] imagination resembles one of those Burgundy slopes, mysteriously sunned and fed, that produces a vintage unlike any other."—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Megan Harlan
Daringly [explores] the spiritual worth of sensual pleasure...
Entertainment Weekly
Eve Claxton
The Vintner's Luck offers some fine and unusual writing. Each chapter of the novel is given the name of a wine and a vintage. It's a sweet conceit. . . Since the story is deliberately unfocused, The Vintner's Luck can at times be perplexing. It's frequently downright unbelievable. -- Time Out New York
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This imaginative story of the lifelong love between a man and an angel is the first of Knox's five books to appear outside her native New Zealand. In Burgundy one midsummer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau, then 18, climbs to the ridge of his father's lands with two freshly bottled wines to lament his love troubles. Stumbling drunkenly, he is caught by the angel Xas, who smells of snow and describes himself "of the lowest of the nine orders. Unmentioned in Scripture and Apocrypha." They share the bottles, and Xas promises that this night next year he will toast Sobran's marriage--leading Sobran to believe Xas is his protector and guide. Sobran marries the woman whose family strain of insanity his father fears, marches with the Grand Army to Moscow, inherits his father's vineyards and begins to prosper under his angelic "luck." However, Xas proves far different from a guardian angel, and as years pass (the meetings on midsummer eve continue, with some exceptions, to 1863) their attachment shifts, severs then mends, as Xas's complicated relationship with God and Lucifer gradually unfolds. Each year's meeting constitutes one chapter, titled with the name of a wine, from 1808, Vin Bourro (new wine), to 1863, Vinifie (to turn into wine). This by-annum structure makes possible a number of intriguing plot turns but prohibits a smooth narrative flow. Most intriguing are the glimpses we get of Hell, which Xas reveals is entered through a salt dome in Turkey, and Heaven, accessible through the lake of an Antarctic volcano. In Hell there is one copy of everything ever written, but in Heaven angels are the only copies God tolerates--copies of man, who is in turn the copy of a woman. And Heaven, we learn in a clever epilogue dated 1997, looks like the Titanic. While this conception of an alternate universe is the novel's significant achievement, Knox's failure to convey a fully realized narrative voice (except in the portions where the characters write letters to each other) may leave the reader feeling impressed but not totally enthusiastic.
Richard Bernstein
...[E]rotically charged intrigue....[a] sophisticated, supernaturally tinged mystery....Ms. Knox remains stylistically in command throughout, and she remains master of the historical circumstances...her evocation of rural life in Burgundy never losing its authentic feel. -- The New York Times
Nina Auerbach
Xas is one of the best angels since William Blake's....Knox cannot endow her human characters...with the pride and poignancy of her angels. Her original, often astonishingly vivid novel would have been better still if its earth were as credible as its heaven and hell. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
This American debut by a veteran New Zealand novelist is a wonderfully imaginative tale, set in the 19th-century French countryside, of the long enduring, loving relationship between a man and an angel. The former is 18-year-old Sobran Jodeau, scion of a family of winemakers, who while drunk and unhappy in love encounters Xas, the celestial being who will thereafter visit him annuallyn until the angel's intimacy with his human lover propels him headlong into Sobran's complicated family and romantic life. The story is arguably overplotted (especially in later sequences that detail Xas's masquerade as tutor to Sobran's children or that explore the unconventional triangle formed by man, angel, and the younger noblewoman who eventually becomes Sobran's mistress). But a ferocious display of inventive power redeems and enlivens even the bookns more extravagant convolutions. Knox's flexible, image-driven sentences effortlessly evoke the lush plenitude of Clos Jodeau and environs, as well as Xas's ineffable strangeness (sleeping in Sobran's bed, "He looked comical, like a young man sharing his bed with two large dogs, the humps his wings made under the covers"). "Fallen angel" Xas, rejected by both God and Lucifer for his intellectual curiosity as much as for his dalliance with a mortal, is a formidable creation. And Knox equals it with her searching portrayal of Sobran: an intelligent, perceptive man who passes through astonishment at the visitation that becomes the love of his life, through furious despair when he learns of Xas's fallen state and fears he has committed blasphemy, to a resigned old age in which he knows he can neither keep nor relinquish the vessel of grace (if indeed itbe such) granted to him decades before. A one-of-a-kind novel.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312264109
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
08/05/2000
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
618,659
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.65(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Original, often astonishingly vivid...Xas is one of the best angels since William Blake's."—Nina Auerbach, The New York Times Book Review

"Daringly exploring the spiritual worth of sesnual pleasure, New Zealand writer Knox's imaginative, imagistic tale soars."—Entertainment Weekly

"Rich prose and an original plot...a delightful, thought-provoking read."—Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post

"Strangely compelling...multilayered and challanging...[The Vintner's Luck] is not your typical angel story."—David Tedhams, The Washington Post Book World

"Elizabeth Knox spreads her odd and original gossamer over many things....[Her] imagination resembles one of those Burgundy slopes, mysteriously sunned and fed, that produces a vintage unlike any other."—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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