The Vintner’s Luck, Elizabeth Knox
Originally reviewed 18th July, 2009
My flatmate recommended this to me with much high praise. And read my copy before I got my hands on it, and cried at it a lot. I have to confess, when I started reading it, I didn’t really get into it. The story is about a man who agrees to meet an angel (or an angel who agrees to meet a man?) at the same time every year, for one night every year. The story focuses on these meetings, so what we get are glimpses into a life. It isn’t just the meetings, but it focuses mostly on them, rather than the minutiae of daily life. As a consequence, it takes time to get to know the characters. I think it was that that kept me from getting too deeply into the story.
It actually reminds me of a line from the first page: He took a swig of the friand, tasted fruit and freshness, a flavour that turned briefly and looked back over its shoulder at the summer before last, but didn’t pause even to shade its eyes. And then: Again he tasted the wine’s quick backward look, its spice — flirtation and not love.
Not only is that a lovely thought, and it tastes nice to synaesthetic little me, but it kind of describes how I felt about the book at first.
I didn’t really know what to expect from the story. There’s a little mystery in it, about some murders that happen in the area, and then there’s the love story between the man and the angel. I found both of them compelling. There are also glimpses into heaven and hell, provided by Xas, the angel, and the intervention of Lucifer — things that really point at a greater plot, I suppose, but we see it framed in the same way as Sobran, the human, does.
The love story is the part that really captured me, I have to say. It isn’t easy, Xas holding back from it, and then Sobran becoming angry and not wanting to see Xas, and then Xas’ disappearance… There’s enough of it to catch hold of your heart, though, and when you’re reaching the end of the book, it really, really begins to hurt.
I didn’t actually cry, although it was a close thing: I was desperate to read the last twenty pages, so had to read them under my grandparents’ eagle eyes, and that wasn’t conducive to a full-on sob fest…
I really do love the last lines:
You fainted and I caught you. It was the first time I’d supported a human. You had such heavy bones. I put myself between you and gravity.