The Fionavar Tapestry – Guy Gavriel Kay

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Whenever someone asked me what I was reading during the last few weeks, I coyly avoided the question, palming it off with the response “Oh, just some mindless fantasy, it won’t change the world or anything, but it’s very entertaining.” Which, coincidentally, is the ideal way to describe The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay.

I searched long and hard to get my hands on copies of these books, which I originally read in high school, but have always wanted to own for myself. I remembered being blown-away by them at that time, and was hoping for the same experience when I re-read them recently.

I must say, it’s clear to see the Tolkien influence in these books. Most of the time, you feel like the story is the love-child of Lord of the Rings and Narnia, with a bit of Biblical influence thrown in there (not that this story has any Christian allegory whatsoever, unlike the more famous predecessors). But, by the time it reaches its conclusion, it does stand as a trilogy in its own right, even if it feels quite cheesy a lot of the time.

It tells the story of five American students transported to another world to join in annual celebrations of the King. However, they arrive on the brink of catastrophic war, and each discovers that they have a purpose much greater than just celebrating.

It’s fluffy and entertaining, and if you can dig into a bit of fantasy-escapism, then you’ll probably enjoy this series. I paired it with the magical Nitida Cabernet Sauvignon, which carries flavours of cherries, vanilla, leather and musky tobacco leaves.

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”.

Maus-Art Spiegelman

 

I can’t say I’ve ever read an entire comic book in my life, let alone a Pulitzer Prize winning one, yet I flew through this harrowing true story of survival.

Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman and his survival of the Second World War and Auschwitz, as told by his son, years later in New York. The author, Art, is currently the contributing editor and artist for the New Yorker, and he uses his talents for drawing to retell the trauma his father went through, while trying to exercise his own demons relating to his relationship with his parents, and particularly his mothers suicide.   

This dark story is constructed with postmodern flair, with the artist assuming the mask of a mouse, and often referring back to himself, his illusion and the process of drawing the cartoon. Yet he gently guides the reader through war torn Poland through the eyes of his aging father.

The story is poignant and powerful, not for the faint of heart but without a doubt worth the challenge of reading it. I paired this with the glorious Plaisir De Merle 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Not all that glitters is gold

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There is a little old bookshop close to where I work. Its the size of a small cupboard, with shelves up to the roof piled with books of all shapes and sizes. It is here I stumbled across Tobias Hills book, The Love of Stones. Deciding not to be deceived by attractive covers again, I bought it and took it home with me.

This is not the kind of book I normally read, it is classified as “historical thriller”. In some parts it was tedious because of Hill’s meticulous descriptions. At times I felt lost because he transitions between characters so quickly, I wasn’t always sure who’s point of view I was reading at the time. However, Hill uses his meticulous descriptions to bring to life a very different world: the world of lapidaries

The story traces the events of Katherine Sterne, a 25 year old woman in the 21st century who has dedicated her life to recovering the lost jewel forged in the 1500’s known as the Three Brethren (if you’re interested, it is a real jewel, or at least it has existed in history). It also traces the story of two Iraqi Jews trying to make their fortunes in 19th century England as lapidaries, Daniel and Salmon Levy. To see where their paths cross through the centuries is what makes this story intriguing, and where they eventually meet is where the Brethren will be found.

Its definitely worth a read if you’re a history buff. Sometimes Hill fails to explain some of the terminology or historical implications of certain characters, but if you can work around that, you’ll enjoy this story.

I paired it with the absolutely delicious Anura Cabernet Sauvignon from the hills of Simondium. This jewel of a wine has rich raspberry and fruit flavours which are complex and memorable, and the makers describe this wine as “the fulfillment of a dream and the pursuit of perfection” much like Katherine’s search for the Three Brethren.

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