Writer Jay Mackintosh is suffering from writer's block. Having reached his artistic zenith with the award-winning 'Jackapple Joe', a novel published 10 years ago, he has failed to duplicate his earlier success, and now writes second-rate science-fiction novels under a pseudonym. He lives in London with his ambitious girlfriend, Kerry, and teaches creative writing to vapid young students whilst living on his dwindling reputation.
Jackapple Joe , Jay's only best-seller, was a nostalgic retelling of Jay's childhood summers in the Yorkshire town of Kirby Monckton. It is a coming-of-age story, describing how Jay was befriended, following his parents' divorce, by an eccentric old man called Joseph Cox, a gardener, poet and everyday magician, with whom he was to forge a unique relationship. Blackberry Wine acquaints readers with Joe through flashbacks as, now aged 37 and feeling increasingly unfulfilled, Jay revisits his childhood haunts and discovers a box of Joe's "Specials", bottles of home-made wine that may hold the key to Joe's unexplained disappearance.
Under the influence of this magical home-brew, Jay finds himself behaving in a more and more erratic way. He buys a house he has never seen in the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and moves there, ostensibly to write, but in reality to escape from Kerry, the pressures of fame and the expectations of his public. The estate, Joe's bottles of homemade wine "The Specials" and vivid memories of Joe that gradually become more than simply memories, inspire Jay to write again for the first time in a decade, and to rediscover what truly matters to him.
He begins to write a new book about Lansquenet and its inhabitants, whilst secretly observing his neighbour, the reclusive Marise d'Api, whose land borders his own. This fiercely independent woman lives alone with her deaf daughter, and although she resists all Jay's attempts to get to know her, he becomes increasingly fascinated by her. After weeks of inspired writing, rewarding hard work in his gardens and revisiting the past through Joe's "Specials", Jay comes to feel that the life he is building for himself is more important than writing the great follow-up novel and that self-fulfilment is more alluring to him now than fame and notoriety.
He finally gains Marise's confidence following a crisis at her farm, and learns the terrible secret that she has been so desperate to conceal. However, just as Jay is about to accept that he is falling in love with Marise, his ex-girlfriend Kerry arrives in Lansquenet, having gained access to Jay's whereabouts and the first pages of his new book. Determined to 'redeem' him and recognising the book's potential she prepares for a massive publicity stunt, that would reveal Jay's whereabouts to the press.
This would re-launch Jay's flagging career; it would also mean that Lansquenet would suffer a damaging influx of tourists that might change the place forever. Jay is torn between his ambition and his growing realisation that he has managed to recapture in Lansquenet the simplicity and magic of his life with Joe, and that he cannot bear to lose it a second time.
To put a stop to Kerry's machinations, Jay burns the sole manuscript of his book and, finally at peace with himself, prepares to begin a new life with Marise. In the book, wine is a character in its own right, a sort of impersonal narrator. Making wine is one of Joe's hobbies. He does not always make it from grapes, and here wine serves as a link between Joe and Jay as well as providing a key to Jay's untapped potential.
As each bottle unlocks its secrets, Jay begins to understand himself better and finally learns to accept who he is. As in Chocolat , magic plays an important role, but it is an ambiguous kind of magic that is open to other explanations.
Joe believes openly in magic, and performs little rituals to protect his garden, but Jay's perception of magic is more about a certain kind of attitude, a belief in one's ability to change and a return to Nature. With a large choice of syrups, smoothies, sauces and purees, Monin offers possibilities as endless as the creativity. A family company built on trust, Monin has a passion for quality and a sincere appreciation for our clients.
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