Sister Noon – Karen Joy Fowler

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After reading a few heavy novels (Tell the Wolves I’m home, The Girl on the Train) I was desperately looking for something uplifting and light-hearted to sink my teeth into. Fortunately for me, my friends have my best interests at heart, and Dear Sam loaned me her copy of Karen Joy Fowlers’ Sister Noon.

This delightful historical novel, set in turn-of-the-century San Francisco drew me in to the genteel life of spinster, Lizzie Hayes, as she has a “magical juncture” courtesy of the local woman of notoriety, Mary E. Pleasant. Fowlers’ writing style for this novel drew me straight in and made me feel like a was strolling the dusty streets full of women in skirts, parasols and horse-drawn carriages alongside Lizzie, who has a mystery to uncover after Mammy Pleasant deposits a new orphan at the children’s home that Lizzie fundraises for. It’s a scandalous mystery, which has the potential to redefine Lizzies whole world. As Mrs Pleasant says, we don’t have to be the same people forever.

It’s a great story, highly entertaining. I paired it with the equally great and easy-drinking Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, which has dark berry flavours, including blackberry, youngberry and what the makers describe as “bramble aromas”.

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The girl on the train- Paula Hawkins

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I’m someone who only reads a thriller about once every two years. But I am someone who takes the train to work everyday. I love taking the train (when it’s not delayed by 30 minutes or packed to capacity). I love seeing the regulars, and I love seeing the many (many) crazy random commuters. Often, a poor man will serenade the train just for some coins to buy a cup of coffee.

Perhaps that’s why I was drawn to reading this book, because of the title. I also heard that it is similar in nature to Gone Girl, which, though disturbing, I grudgingly enjoyed. This story is told by three very different women, who all have one (deadly) thing in common. It is a typical Whodunnit, with a satisfying twist.

That said, the jarring jumping between years (2012/2013) and narrators can make it annoying and inconsistent. Also, it often feels very depressing and hopeless at times, especially for the primary narrator and girl-on-the-train, Rachel. Rachel is an alcoholic with a broken marriage and failed career who still takes the train to London everyday so that her roommate won’t discover that she’s been fired. On one of these everyday trips, she sees something unusual happening in her old neighbourhood, and thus begins the impetus for the story.

It’s a quick read and satisfying if thrillers are your thing. But a more literary-inclined person will be left disappointed. Rachel’s drinking habit makes you not want to sip an alcoholic beverage with this, but I paired it with the Kanonkop Kadette, a very satisfying and easy-drinking red blend with hints of dark chocolate and blackberry.

The Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Shadow of the Wind is a complex, beautifully written story that weaves an intricate narrative of different lives and generations in post-war Spain.

Young Daniel Sempere is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books by his father, a second hand book dealer. He is allowed to choose one book which he must keep and treasure always, as he will go into the second hand book business like his father. Daniel picks a book by a likewise forgotten author, Julian Carrax. Hidden here for safety from a mysterious character hell-bent on finding and destroying all of Carrax’s works, Daniel goes on a quest to discover more about the mysterious author, whom he finds he has so much in common with. The deeper Daniel digs, the more dangerous his quest to find out what really happened to Carrax becomes.

I really loved reading this story of love and misery in a post-war Europe. I must admit, I know very little about Spanish history or the Spanish civil war, but it was an interesting read nonetheless. Zafón has a unique way of writing that is both intricate and circular, often picking up threads later in the story that he drops right at the beginning. He also plays on the notion of history repeating itself and the danger of revenge and desire. His attention to detail brings the streets of Barcelona, and the characters that inhabit them, to life.

I paired this with the Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Shiraz, a wine imbued with rich flavours and deep philosophy that perfectly complements this complex novel.