My Salinger Year- Joanna Rakoff

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New York native Joanna Rakoff explores the existential theme of entering adulthood in this coming-of-age memoir.

Freshly out of university, Rakoff takes a job as a secretary at one of New York’s oldest literary agencies in the mid-90’s, only to discover it is the same agency which shot J.D. Salinger to fame.This simplistic story tells of her year working on a project for Salinger which never came to fruition, discovering his works for herself for the first time, grappling with what adulthood means, and leaving behind love for the sake of what she describes as “a little unhappy and constantly lonely” in the hopes of getting her own works published.

While nothing much happens in the story itself, this book is exquisitely written and makes for an easy read. Set against the backdrop of New York, its hard to resist being sucked into the world of literature that Rakoff paints, cleverly using Salinger to discuss the themes that she herself has wrestled with.

This well-constructed novel is definitely worth a read, whether you are familiar with Salinger’s work or not. I paired this with a rich and aromatic Italian wine, the Bardolino Zonin, a bordeaux-style blend which reflects the fruity and soft flavours of a pinot noir while being quite heavy on the alcohol side of things. This wine is as well-constructed as Rakoff’s novel.

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The Night Circus- Erin Morgenstern

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This tale set at the turn of the 20th century has magic and romance at its core. It tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers, thrown into a competition of skill and endurance and bound to one another until a winner is declared. The arena for the competition, the Night Circus, is a place of dreams that captures the imagination of the general public, and is only open between sunset and sunrise.

As a debut novel, this 2011 release is an impressive feat of the imagination for  author Erin Morgenstern. It took me a long time to get into it, because I kept expecting a Hunger Games-like arena and competition, but once you come to terms with the fact that its slow-building romance novel, it’s quite enjoyable. What I found most difficult about the novel was bonding with the (many) characters that form the heart of the circus, and the fact that the story jumps between dates and years. But if you’re looking for something charming then this is the novel for you.

I paired this story with the Footprint Chardonnay, a somewhat missable white wine made for export (I was in Zanzibar, so I had limited wine options). Put if you’re smarter than I, you’ll pair this with a well-wooded and vanilla-ry chardonnay, like the Bon Courage Prestige Cuvee which comes with hints of butterscotch as well.