Most of the book reviews I’ve done on here have been informational – they’ve spoken to wine regions, given cocktail advice, or taught you how to become more knowledgeable about wine; in many ways that made reviewing them easy, as the books were informational, and not truly designed for their entertainment value. Corkscrew: The Highly Improbable, But Occasionally True, Tale of a Wine Buyer by Peter Stafford-Bow is something different though – it’s ostensibly a work of fiction, which makes sharing my thoughts on it trickier.
Before I dive into the book I feel like I should give a bit of my background. While I’ve been writing this site for several years now, it’s not how I make a living. I studied English in college, and in fact have a Creative Writing degree that helps in my job as a Content Strategist, the thing that actually pays the bills. I say all this because I want to give some context for my review of the book – I write, both personally and professionally, and have done critiques of books as part of my education.
Alright, so what did I think of the book?
The premise of the novel is the main character, Felix Hart, is retelling his life story to police in an interrogation room. While the conceit is certainly good, if not original, it still took me a while to get interested in the character of Felix, in part because I found him utterly unlikeable at first. This was probably intentional, and he does grow on you over time, but it made it a bit hard for me to really dive in.
I certainly don’t want to ruin the novel here by revealing the overall plot, only tell you that it does revolve around Felix’s climbing through the ranks from being a wine novice to being a highly successful wine professional. The path he follows is more than a little absurd – the test he takes to become a recognized wine professional, here called a Wine Minstrel, is insane if not amusing.
While the story did grow on me as I got into it, and the character of Felix did become less childish as time moved on, I have to admit that I found the ending to be a bit of a let down.
While the story does come to a narratively logical conclusion, I felt like the end was a bit rushed. That may be me because I felt like the mid-portion of the book was weightier, or because I had become invested enough in the character that I wasn’t ready for it to end; to be honest I’m not quite sure.
All in all I enjoyed the book. While it took me some time to get into the story, I found myself ready to pick up my Kindle each night and read a few more pages, which, if nothing else, is a good sign that the book was enjoyable. It’s certainly not for children (there’s plenty of sex, swearing, and drinking), but if you’re looking for an escapist book that’s got elements of Sideways and The Wolf of Wall Street, this may be the book you’ve been looking for.
You can find the book online at Amazon.