Cover image for Blackberry wine : a novel
Blackberry wine : a novel
Harris, Joanne.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : William Morrow, [2000]

Physical Description:
357 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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As a boy, writer Jay Mackintosh spent three golden summers in the ramshakle home of Joseph "Jackapple Joe" Cox in the tiny English town of Kirby Mockton. Jay found solace in old Joe's simple wisdom and folk charms, in his stories of far travel and wild adventure, and in his astonishing ability to make anything grow lush and luxurious. And then there were Joe's "Specials," his homebrewed wines, each bottle containing the sparkle of something truly magical. The magic was lost, though, when Joe disappeared without warning one fall.

Years later, Jay's life is stalled with regret and emnui. His novel Jackapple Joe was his artistic zenith, but it had been published ten years earlier and he has not been able to write a serious work since. When an unsolicited real estate brochure arrives in the afternoon mail, he impulsivley abandons every urban thing he knows. sight unseen, he purchases a farmhouse in the remote French village of Lansquenet, in an attempt to recapture the magic that vanished twenty years ago.

Now Jay is packing up a few belongings-and the last remaining bottles og Joe's "Specials"-and relocating to the sleepy village rich in stories of its own is calling to him. There, in the strange yet strangely familiar place-and in the dark, guarded secrets of a reclusive woman and her young child-Jay Mackintosh hopes to find himself again. for he feels that somehow, as impossible as it seems, "Jackapple Joe" is waiting for him there.

A lovely and lyrical novel of myriad enchantments, Blackberry Wire is a rare treat for the mind, the heart and the senses from an extraordinary literary talent.

Author Notes

Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England on July 3, 1964. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at St Catharine's College, Cambridge. While working as a teacher for fifteen years, she published three novels: The Evil Seed (1989), Sleep, Pale Sister (1993) and Chocolat (1999), which was made into a film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Her other works include Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, The Lollipop Shoes and Runemarks. She also co-wrote two cookbooks with cookery writer Fran Warde: The French Kitchen and The French Market.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The new novel by the author of the delectable Chocolat [BKL S 15 99] lacks its voluptuous perfection but entrances nonetheless. We're back in the tiny French town of Lansquenet, where some of the major players in Chocolat now have supporting roles. On a whim, struggling writer Jay Macintosh has bought an old farmhouse near Lansquenet that reminds him of the summers he spent as a teenager with Joe, a combination of faerie godfather, Jerry Garcia, and Johnny Appleseed. In Joe's tender regard for growing things, his wondrous stories, and the magic he places in bottles of strange fruit wine, the teen Jay finds both solace and fury. It's those wine bottles that whisper to Jay and send him to the French cottage; he is even more amazed when Joe, absent for decades, appears and disappears abruptly, slightly transparent but still somehow present. Chocolat lovers will be pleased, and new readers satisfied. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Like her well-received 1999 novel, Chocolat, Harris's latest outing unfolds around the arrival of an outsider in a tiny French town. This time wine replaces chocolate as Harris's magic elixir, and the newcomer to the village of Lansquenet sur Tannes is Jay Mackintosh, a 37-year-old has-been writer from London. Fourteen years have passed since Jay's debut novel, Jackapple Joe, won the Prix Goncourt. Since then, he has been churning out B-novels under a pseudonym; he currently lives with his girlfriend, Kerry, an aggressively successful 25-year-old celebrity journalist. Flashbacks reveal that Jay's only recollections of happiness are the golden summers he spent as a youth with old Joseph "Jackapple Joe" Cox in the small English town of Kirby Monckton. Joe, a colorful character who made wines from fruits and berries, inspired Joe's successful first novel. But one day he disappeared. When Jay stumbles across an advertisement for an 18th-century "chateau" in wine-growing country, the spell of his misery is broken. After downing a bottle of Joe's '75 Special, which he has been hoarding for 24 years, Jay decides to buy the house sight unseen. Leaving Kerry in London, Jay moves to Lansquenet and starts a new rural life, beginning to write under his own name again. He is bewildered by his reclusive neighbor, Marise d'Api, who apparently coveted his derelict house and land, and is ostracized by the townspeople. Jay's quest to discover why everyone, including Marise's former mother-in-law, blames Marise for her husband's suicide keeps the plot moving at a steady clip. Despite some unbelievable twists and a slightly uneven paceÄit begins slowly, but by the last quarter races aheadÄthis is an entertaining narrative, equal parts whimsy and drama. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Wine talks; ask anyone. The oracle at the street corner; the uninvited guest at the wedding feast; the holy fool. It ventriloquizes. It has a million voices. It unleashes the tongue, teasing out secrets you never meant to tell, secrets you never even knew. It shouts, rants, whispers. It speaks of great plans, tragic loves and terrible betrayals. It screams with laughter. It chuckles softly to itself. It weeps in front of its own reflection. It revives summers long past and memories best forgotten. Every bottle a whiff of other times, other places, every one -- from the commonest Liebfraumilch to the imperious Veuve Clicquot -- a humble miracle. Everyday magic, Joe had called it. The transformation of base matter into the stuff of dreams. Layman's alchemy. Take these six in Jay's cellar, for instance. The Specials. Not wines really meant for keeping, but he kept them all the same. For nostalgia's sake. For a special, yet-to-be-imagined occasion. Six bottles, each with its own small handwritten label and sealed with candle wax. Each had a cord of a different color knotted around its neck, raspberry red, elderflower green, blackberry blue, rose hip yellow, damson black. The last bottle was tied with a brown cord. Specials '75, said the label, the familiar writing faded to the color of old tea. But inside was a hive of secrets. There was no escaping them: their whisperings, their catcalls, their laughter. Jay had hidden them behind a crate of more sober vintages the day he'd brought them back from Pog Hill Lane. Five weeks later he could almost persuade himself they were forgotten. Even so he sometimes imagined he heard them, without really knowing what it was he heard. Jay Mackintosh was thirty-seven. Unremarkable but for his eyes, which were Pinot Noir indigo, he had the awkward, slightly dazed look of a man who has lost his way. Five years ago Kerry had found this appealing. By now she had lost her taste for it. There was something deeply annoying about his passivity and the core of stubbornness beneath. She knew there were depths to Jay, but for some reason he remained sealed off to her, neatly deflecting any attempt at intimacy. Her only point of entry to that secret place was through his books. Through his book. Fourteen years ago Jay had written a novel called Jackapple Joe. It won the Prix Goncourt in France, translated into twenty languages. Three crates of vintage Veuve Clicquot celebrated its publication -- the '76, drunk too young to do it justice. Jay was like that then, rushing at life as if it might never run dry, as if what was bottled inside him would last forever in a celebration without end. But then something happened. Perhaps it was the unexpected success of Jackapple Joe which paralyzed him. Perhaps the weight of expectation, of affection from a public hungry for more. Television interviews, newspaper articles, reviews succeeded each other into silence. Hollywood made a film adaptation with Corey Feldman, set in the American Midwest. Nine years passed. Jay wrote part of a manuscript entitled Stout Cortez and sold eight short stories to Playboy magazine, which were later reprinted as a collection by Penguin Books. The literary world waited for Jay Mackintosh's new novel, eagerly at first, then restless, curious, then finally, fatally, indifferent. Of course he still wrote. There had been seven novels to date, with titles like The G-sus Gene and Psy-Wrens of Mars and A Date with d'Eath, all written under the pseudonym of Jonathan Winesap, nice earners which kept him in reasonable comfort. Every month the post brought him a sizable packet of fan mail, all addressed to Jonathan Winesap, mostly from America. Sometimes the letters contained blurry photographs of UFOs or accounts of out-of-body experiences or magical amulets or newspaper clippings dealing with unexplained phenomena. These he explored, debunked and filed away in the neat drawers of a large cabinet next to his desk. He was a great advocate of keeping fiction in its place. Sometimes he attended fantasy conventions and made impassioned speeches about what he called the Conspiracy of the Unexplained, in which he argued that the public's appetite for strange phenomena was being deliberately nurtured by the media to divert attention from a world crisis spinning ever more wildly out of control. He bought a Toshiba laptop which he balanced on his knees like the TV dinners he made for himself on the nights -- increasingly frequent now -- Kerry worked late. Occasionally he lectured at writers' groups, held creative-writing seminars at the university. More often he wasted hours surfing the Internet and drinking too much. Kerry watched him with growing disapproval. Kerry O'Neill (born Katherine Marsden), twenty-five, cropped red hair and startling green eyes, a journalist made good into television by way of Forum!, a late-night talk show where popular authors and B-list celebrities discussed contemporary social problems against a background of avant-garde jazz. Five years ago she might have been more tolerant. But then, five years ago there was no Forum!, Kerry was writing a women's column for the Independent and she was working on a lighthearted book entitled Chocolate -- A Feminist Outlook. The world was filled with possibilities. Her book came out two years later on a wave of media interest. Kerry was photogenic, marketable and mainstream. As a result she appeared on a number of lightweight talk shows. She was photographed for Marie Claire, Tatler and Me! but was quick to reassure herself that it hadn't gone to her head. She had a house in Chelsea, a pied-á-terre in New York and was considering liposuction on her thighs. If she sometimes wondered what had happened to the impetuous girl who had read Jackapple Joe and fallen wildly in love with the author, she seldom spoke of it. She had grown up. Moved on... From the Trade Paperback edition. Excerpted from Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.