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.

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Out of the silent planet- C.S. Lewis

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Out of the Silent Planet is the first novel is the rare C.S Lewis series known as The Space Trilogy. I have found these books particularly difficult to come by, so I was delighted one day to find an outlet store in the city that had just two copies of the series in full.

Lewis is known for his theological works for adults and fantasy work for children, but few readers are aware that this great author dabbled in sci-fi. It is rumoured that his good friend Tolkien, neither approved of nor enjoyed the manuscripts of his space trilogy when he was given them to read.

This first book tells the story of philologist, Dr Ransom, who is kidnapped by a cosmologist and taken to the planet Malacandra, where he believes he is to be sacrificed to the planets inhabitants. Typically infused with Lewis’ symbolism, the book is a symphony of descriptions which warm the heart. It also provides insightful commentary on the human race and its destructive nature. All in all, if you are a Lewis fan, you will probably enjoy this story.

I paired this with the equally intricate Steenberg Shiraz, a textured and peppery wine.

 

The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkien

   
There is very little point in reviewing a classic, but I am one of the many Inklings fans and I tend to re-read the works of Tolkien and Lewis at least once a year. Their works of art are like family to me, old familiar favorites that I return to time after time, for comfort, for joy and for assurance.
So this was the first time I’ve re-read The Hobbit since the series of movies came out. It’s hard for a die-hard fan to admit, but I did find the screen adaptations quite disappointing, often exclaiming to myself “that didn’t happen in the book!” 

So it was a pleasant surprise to discover, in re-reading the beloved tale once again, that not only did the movies not ruin the story for me, but they were also relatively accurate in their portrayal of the novel.

If you haven’t yet read the classic story of how someone small can find adventure, courage and friends worth more than gold and treasure, then what are you waiting for?

I paired this with the Solms Delta vintage Shiraz 2013. The wine is not a particularly spicy blend, but has a chocolate taste and is smooth on the palate. 

Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte

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I finally managed to trawl through Wuthering Heights.

After delving for several weeks into the world of post-apocalyptic America, I felt that I wanted something classic, something with depth to refresh my mind and recoup my love of holistic literature from a by-gone age. While Wuthering Heights ticked all these boxes, it also destroyed my happiness for the duration of the book.

The classic “love” story of Catherine and Heathcliff is a deeply disturbing one. If it took place today, it would probably portray Catherine as an adulteress who self-destructs her marriage to a man she once loved, while Heathcliff is nothing but a dangerous home wrecker bent on seeking revenge by destroying as many lives as he can, including those of innocent children.

The one question I had to keep asking myself throughout the duration of this book was, why is this a set work in most English speaking countries? True, Bronte has crafted it to perfection, and one must wonder what was it in the Moorish hills of their childhood that made all the Bronte sisters into literary geniuses? But that’s about as far as my admiration extends. In fact, a woman’s magazine in 1848 described the experience of reading this book in the following way: “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters is a mystery.”

It was a difficult read, and yes, it has left me somewhat traumatised. Next time I pick up a classic it will definitely be a fluffy Jane Austen.

I paired this wine with the delectable and rich Waterford Kevin Arnold, a rich, smooth Shiraz which is everything I was hoping this classic tale of love and loss would be. At least it had a happy ending.

Divergent- Veronica Roth

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I’m tempted in my anguish to tell you not to read the Divergent trilogy. But then my book-loving self who would never deny another human being the addictive pleasure that comes from reading books like these, pushes me to write this post.

So for the past month my nose has been pasted to the pages of Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant, the three part series released by Veronica Roth (now a major motion picture featuring Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet).

What can be said about Divergent? Its teen fiction, so the writing is simplistic and the relationship between characters is sometimes dissatisfyingly shallow, but the storyline, set in post-apocalyptic USA, is imaginative and enthralling.

We meet the protagonist, Beatrice Prior, on the day she has to take the test which will determine which faction (or societal group) she will choose to join for the rest of her life. While this system was set-up to restore order after the war that destroyed the USA (as we know it) something else is afoot, and that’s when we are invited in to the story.

It was heart-racing and gripping to read, but I must warn you that when I finally finished the last page of Allegiant (the final book) I cried for two days straight. No really, two days. So if you are brave enough for the emotional rollercoaster that is Divergent, and sci-fi is your thing, then I highly recommend this read.

I paired this series with a number of wines, but the one that stood out most to me, and surprisingly so, because I seldom drink or enjoy Shiraz, was the Ross Gowan 2007. Spicey with a soft finish, this is a great accompaniment to the trilogy.