Wool- Hugh Howey


Honestly, Wool wasn’t something I needed in my life. It gave me nightmares, and at a time when I already feel like the world is on edge: the global droughts, racism rife, refugees, terrorism, and need I say, Donald Trump, the reality that high Howey paints in this latest dystopian novel hit a little too close to home.

That said, it was a great ride. There were enough twists to satisfy the definition of dystopian, but the ending was also satisfying enough that I feel no compunction to read the rest of the series (and I have no intention to).

The story is about Jules, someone who has greatness thrust upon her in a world where human beings only exist below ground, sheltered from the toxic wasteland that planet earth has become. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but if you enjoy young adult fiction it’s a good read, but don’t expect the Hunger Games.

I paired this with the Heme,-en-Aarde Vine Garden, a Chardonnay-type white blend, sweet and memorable but poisonous if you drink too much.

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We are all completely beside ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

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Reading Karen Joy Fowlers We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was not what I had expected it to be. Having read the utterly straightforward and enchanting Sister Noon some months before, I expected something equally charming and simple, which this novel certainly is not.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers in the story, but it certainly provides insightful perspective on the level of cruelty humans are capable of. This was a hard story to read – not in the sense that I struggled to get through it or didn’t want to read it, but in the nature of its themes, which are quite weighty and at times depressing. Besides human cruelty towards animals, Fowler touches on the theme of family and self-identity. Some of the content she draws on is autobiographical in nature: her father, also a psychologist like the father in the novel, worked with animals in science labs when she was growing up. However, the amount of research that Fowler must have poured into this book to understand and write about experiments on chimpanzees in the early 20th century is impressive.

In summation, this is a hard read. The central character, Rosemary, is both relatable and completely foreign, as she takes us through the events she experiences on a California campus in the 90’s, and those that scarred her in her childhood. Fowler’s literary technique of swinging back and forth between middle, beginning and end of the story certainly adds weight to her primary focus on chimpanzees. If you enjoy her work, and you are prepared to have your thoughts challenged, I would suggest this one. If you’re looking for some light reading, maybe give it a skip or opt for Sister Noon instead.

I paired this book with the delectable Montpellier Chardonnay, made in the beautiful Tulbagh valley and which gives rewarding notes of pears and vanilla.

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.

Death is objective

book thief

Or is he? Perhaps not in the case of The Book Thief. Although I generally avoid blogging about the same author twice, I reckon that Markus Zusak is the exception to the rule. I decided to reread this amazing story because of the film adaption which was recently released, and was once again struck by the genius of the author. If you have read his other works, you will understand how versatile he is and how he is a wordsmith in the true sense of the term.

The Book Thief tells the story of Liezel Meminger, living in Nazi Germany. Adopted by the Hubermans who live in a small town near Munich, Liezel learns to live, love and most importantly, to read, during the tumultuous period that was World War 2. The genius of this masterpiece is that it is narrated by Death, a very busy “person” at that particular point in history, as he encounters the book thief at several points in her young existence. It is a rich, exquisitely crafted tale that you will never forget, if you haven’t read it yet, what else have you been doing? I once watched an interview with Zusak in which he said he based the story’s events on anecdotes his grandmother used to tell him about the war, and I can’t help wondering if Granny Zusak was Liesel Meminger herself.

I paired this exquisite book with an exquisite wine, just as rich and layered as the story itself. The Clos Malverne Chardonnay is buttery and lingering, and is a worthy match for The Book Thief.

Hell hath no fury…

This is one of the many beautiful quotes from Dickens. Said by Estella in Great Expectations

This is one of the many beautiful quotes from Dickens. Said by Estella in Great Expectations

 

I have finally finished reading my first Charles Dickens novel! Of course it was the literary classic that has come to us through the centuries, Great Expectations. There have been many movie adaptations of this much-beloved story, but without a doubt, the book is better!

I started reading the story with a sketchy knowledge of what happens. Throughout the tale, Dicken’s goes to great pains to describe everything down to the most minute detail. At first I found this annoying and time wasting, not understanding how seemingly insignificant events come to play important roles later in the story, but if you stick it out, it is well worth it.

It is very like the Biblical tale of the prodigal son. It tells the story of orphaned Pip, living with his tempestous sister and her kind-hearted husband, until he is found to have “Great Expectations” (meaning, he comes into money). If you know anything about England, it is, even today, an incredibly classist society, and was even more so in Dicken’s day. Moving between classes was almost unheard of.

The story twists and turns, and the unexpected awaits the reader around every corner. It was a delicious read, both moving and insightful, though I must say, the protagonists long list of poor choices makes it hard to like him.

I paired this book with an equally surprising Springfield Chardonnay. I’m not a fan of Chardonnay in general, but this unwooded and buttery wine was a delightful complement to the bustling streets and exorbitant luxury of 19th century London.