One summer evening in 1808, Sobran Jodeau stumbles through his family's vineyard in Burgundy, filled with wine and love sorrows. As Sobran sways in a drunken swoon, an angel appears out of nowhere to catch him.Once he gets over his shock, Sobran decides that Xas, the male angel, is his guardian sent to counsel him on everything from marriage to wine production. But Xas turns out to be far more mysterious than angelic. Compelling and erotic, The Vintner's Luck is a decidedly unorthodox love story, one that presents angels as fierce and beautiful as Milton's, and a vision of Heaven, Hell, and the vineyards in between that is unforgettable.
The Vintner?s Luck is a huge bestseller in New Zealand. It has sold over 50 000 copies in New Zealand and over 100 000 copies worldwide.
The Vintner?s Luck was published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Picador US, and in the UK by Chatto & Windus and Vintage. It has been published in German, Dutch, Norwegian, Spanish and Hebrew. It won the Deutz Medal for Fiction at the 1999 The Montana NZ Book Awards, where it also received the Readers' Choice and Booksellers' Choice awards.
It was longlisted for the 1999 Orange Prize for fiction (UK) The Vintner?s Luck won the 2001 Tasmania Pacific Region Prize, and a film directed by Niki Caro is currently in production.
This imaginative story of the lifelong love between a man and an angel is the first of Knox's five books to appear outside her native New Zealand. In Burgundy one midsummer night in 1808, Sobran Jodeau, then 18, climbs to the ridge of his father's lands with two freshly bottled wines to lament his love troubles. Stumbling drunkenly, he is caught by the angel Xas, who smells of snow and describes himself "of the lowest of the nine orders. Unmentioned in Scripture and Apocrypha." They share the bottles, and Xas promises that this night next year he will toast Sobran's marriage--leading Sobran to believe Xas is his protector and guide. Sobran marries the woman whose family strain of insanity his father fears, marches with the Grand Army to Moscow, inherits his father's vineyards and begins to prosper under his angelic "luck." However, Xas proves far different from a guardian angel, and as years pass (the meetings on midsummer eve continue, with some exceptions, to 1863) their attachment shifts, severs then mends, as Xas's complicated relationship with God and Lucifer gradually unfolds. Each year's meeting constitutes one chapter, titled with the name of a wine, from 1808, Vin Bourro (new wine), to 1863, Vinifie (to turn into wine). This by-annum structure makes possible a number of intriguing plot turns but prohibits a smooth narrative flow. Most intriguing are the glimpses we get of Hell, which Xas reveals is entered through a salt dome in Turkey, and Heaven, accessible through the lake of an Antarctic volcano. In Hell there is one copy of everything ever written, but in Heaven angels are the only copies God tolerates--copies of man, who is in turn the copy of a woman. And Heaven, we learn in a clever epilogue dated 1997, looks like the Titanic. While this conception of an alternate universe is the novel's significant achievement, Knox's failure to convey a fully realized narrative voice (except in the portions where the characters write letters to each other) may leave the reader feeling impressed but not totally enthusiastic.