This is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy in as many hands as I could.
This one’s a surprising one for me. It has elements of the fantastical which is usually a literary no-no as far as I’m concerned but Elizabeth Knox carries it off beautifully in this nineteenth-century love story about a man and an angel. Yes, I know but trust me – it’s a captivating read.
Knox’s novel tells the tale of Sobran Jodeau and Xas, the angel into whose arms he quite literally falls one midsummer night. When the two decide to share a bottle of wine and exchange news on the anniversary of their first meeting, a relationship begins that will span fifty-five years, intensifying as each year passes. Life in Sobran’s village in Burgundy goes on, its small tragedies, marriages and affairs punctuated by the turbulent years of the Napoleonic Wars. The murders of two young girls remain unsolved for many years until Sobran thinks he has found the key to the crimes. His family continues to burgeon and his wine to improve. His friendship with the mistress of the neighbouring château provides the villagers with fuel for speculation, as does his strange behaviour on a certain midsummer evening every year. But when one day Xas arrives unannounced and terribly injured, the relationship between angel and man changes irrevocably.
I’ve tried other Knox novels since reading (and rereading) this one but sadly none have hit the spot in the way The Vintner’s Luck did, possibly because they too explored the fantastical. There is, I gather, a sequel called The Angel’s Cut which takes Xas to 1930s Hollywood. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?