Friday, January 20, 2012

The Vintage Caper

Last weekend I had a few days off. And I mean OFF.  I left town, drove south a while to a local retreat center, locked into a small snowbound cottage alone, and spoiled myself with sleeping late, chocolate, wine, and lots of writing time.  I also managed to squeeze in a little X-C skiing and start and finish reading a novel.

While I spent much of my free time reading books about writing, editing my own work, and doing plenty of actual writing, I brought along a bit of entertainment.  In the form of Peter Mayle's book, The Vintage Caper.

I got this book a while back, picked off the shelf at the Library Book Sale, which is where I stumble across much of my current reading. Not having read Mayle's other works, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I knew in my solo, non-technological, woodsy retreat, I would need a break from all those trees, and and escape from myself.

So, the first night I was there, I settled into next to the fire with a glass of wine and this novel about wine.  It is essentially a simple story about a PI with a case to solve for an insurance company.  He is searching for three million dollars worth of stolen wine, and trying to figure out whodunnit. 

The main guy is not really good, but he's not really bad either.  He fell a bit flat for me, but so it goes.  The forward momentum of the story is interspersed with long pauses where the author describes French cities, food, wine, cafes, blah blah blah.  And for some reason, maybe it's the trend these days, the viewpoint of the main PI dude was interrupted to interject the viewpoint of other characters throughout.  Not regularly, but often enough that since it is a pet peeve of mine, it annoyed me.  If you are going to write a story from Joe's perspective, then write it already!  Don't turn it around and tell us what Sue is thinking too.  I want to stick with one character, and follow him.  And sadly, I even found a few grammar errors.  Sigh...

All that said.  I could not put the book down.  I read late into the night, and found myself compelled enough to want to pick it up again.  It had a rhythm, a flow of sorts that once I could feel, I could ride along.  I know nothing about France, and so hearing about a new place was somewhat fun.  And some of the non-main characters were bright and sparkly and fun to watch. It was a quick read, and lightened up my retreat.

I like literature.  Love some of it in fact.  But the mass market, widely distributed books like this, the kind that take you somewhere else, require little thought or work from your own brain, and don't try to be something they are not, are refreshing. In all it's fictional simplicity, taken with a glass or two of good wine, made it perfect for a weekend escape.

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