I am so grateful to Frances Gough at Headline for a copy of Late Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas, in return for an honest review. Late Summer in the Vineyard was published by Headline on 11th August 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback from Amazon UK, Amazon US, W H Smith, Waterstones, from all good book sellers and directly from the publisher.
Late Summer in the Vineyard
Emmy Bridges has always looked out for others. Now it’s time to put down roots of her own.
Working for a wine-maker in France is the opportunity of a lifetime for Emmy. Even if she doesn’t know a thing about wine – beyond what’s on offer at the local supermarket.
There’s plenty to get to grips with in the rustic town of Petit Frère. Emmy’s new work friends need more than a little winning over. Then there’s her infuriatingly brash tutor, Isaac, and the enigmatic Madame Beaumont, tucked away in her vineyard of secrets.
But Emmy will soon realise that in life – just as in wine-making – the best things happen when you let go and trust your instincts. Particularly when there’s romance in the air…
My Review of Late Summer in the Vineyard
With her depressed Dad relying on her to cover the arrears on the mortgage and the bailiffs at the door, Emmy needs to earn some money fast so when fate sends her to France this could be the boost she needs – or just another disaster.
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas (you can read my review here) I wondered whether this latest book would match such an enjoyable reading experience but she has done it again. Late Summer in the Vineyard has all the elements required for a perfect read be it on the beach or on a cold winter’s afternoon, but with a quality to the writing that lifts it far beyond generic women’s fiction.
What Jo Thomas does so evocatively is to set the scene. I was transported to France through the brilliant use of the senses so that I could see the early autumn mists swirling, smell the heady aroma of fermenting grapes and, frequently agonisingly, taste the brie, the crusty bread and the stews. In fact, I think Late Summer in the Vineyard should come with a warning – you’ll want to eat more as you read!
The characters are so realistic that I found myself wondering what they were doing when I wasn’t reading about them. I have a new role model to aspire to in Madame Beaumont whose feisty attitude and compelling background make her so much more than a minor character. Jo Thomas always seems to balance major and minor roles so that each person feels real and vibrant. What I think works so well is that the characters are not idealised and perfect, but Emmy, Isaac et al are rounded and believable.
I loved the plot of Late Summer in the Vineyard too. Real life is complicated and Emmy’s is no different. Whilst this is a romantic read and I expect there to be positive resolutions (you’ll have to read it for yourself to see if those expectations are met), there is such a wealth of really interesting authoritative detail woven into the story so that I have a much better understanding of the wine making process than before I started reading. However, the skill is that Jo Thomas provides the authenticity in a way that is utterly natural and integral to the story making the story a delight to read. This is brilliant writing.
I don’t know the extent to which Jo Thomas plans the themes and how much they arise naturally out of the realistic characters, but they give a depth and credibility to the narrative. We too frequently judge others by appearances or rely on others for our own happiness. Late Summer in the Vineyard teaches us to grasp life with both hands and make our own lives and luck. It also shows the importance of family and belonging.
I thought Late Summer in the Vineyard was very much like the wine that is described. It is smooth, velvety and satisfying – with a je ne sais quoi that adds that little bit extra making it a wonderful read.
About Jo Thomas
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.