“Champagne, 1940: At the dawn of the Second World War, Inès is the young wife of Michel, owner of the Maison Chauveau, a picturesque champagne house nestled among rolling vineyards near Reims, France. It should be an idyllic life, but Inès–who’s often treated like a child by her husband, his chef de cave, Theo, and Theo’s wife, Céline– is increasingly unhappy. She’s determined to make a change, but then the German’s arrive.”
New York, 2019: Recently divorced Liv Kent has lost everything when her French grandmother arrives unannounced, whisking her off to Paris straightaway. What Liv’s grandmother is about to share with her will quickly make her question everything else in her life.
I have long been a fan of Kristin Harmel’s writing. I quickly fell under her spell while reading THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING some years ago. Then again with WHEN WE MEET AGAIN. THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE is outstanding and brings yet another side of the Holocaust more brightly to the surface.
The story begins with a short chapter set in the Champagne country of France in 1940. Then quickly moves to the present day and introduces Liz who is about to make a trip of a lifetime with her 99-year-old French grandmother. I’m in.
There are always secrets embedded in the best novels. This one is no exception. And it’s a whopper. At times I wondered if anyone was really who they thought they were. Harmel uses the Champagne area of France to tell the story of a group of winemakers during the war that were working to help their country in ways the Germans never suspected. Even the most timid and shy of these people did monumental things to foil the enemy and mostly in plain sight. All this in a part of the country we have not heard so much about, until now.
Harmel interviewed extensively for this novel. She spoke at length with Isabelle Pierre, the heritage manager for
Veuve Clicquot, Krug, and Ruinart. Many other historians offered insight as well. Many winemakers in the region were involved in the resistance. They did what they could, even using dirty bottles, bad corks, and second-rate cuvées in Germany-bound shipments.
Did you know that in order to qualify as champagne, a wine must come from the Champagne growing area, less than a hundred miles from Paris in northeastern France? My husband and I love champagne. Our very favorite is Veuve Clicquot. Ooh la la.
After reading THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE I have been wondering how many hidden stashes of wine and spirits are still buried in areas throughout the war zones of Europe. It’s a fascinating thought. I also can’t help but wonder how many identities were switched, how many families are living lies today. It’s so much food for thought.
We, at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida, have been very lucky to have had Kristin grace our bookshop twice with her new books. We are so pleased that Kristin will be showing off her new book, THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE, at a special wine event with us in November. I will keep you posted about time and date. And, yes there will be bubbly!
We at Copperfish Books will have copies of THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE for sale on pub date, Tuesday, August 13. They will be discounted 20%.
My gorgeous hardcopy was furnished by the very generous publishing people at Gallery Books a division of Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Of course, I loved it! You will too. Thanks, guys.