Interestingly I was given a book recently – The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah. And at the same time Wine and War, by Donald and Petie Kladstrup, was recommended to me. I read them both, and can recommend them both.
Wine and War
Wine and War is a non-fictional book. The authors talked with many people, over many years, about their life surrounding wine during World War II. There are remembrances from winemakers to negociants, coopers to resistance fighters. The dangers are made clear, the trickery and underhanded dealings against the Nazi’s often made light of. There are tales of quiet heroism, as well as blatant defiance. From watering down wines, to hiding Jews, passing off bad vintages to sabotage.
The wine focus gives a unique insight into an aspect of Word War II one would never really think of. It also gives a very real insight into why wine is so important in France, not just the making of it, but its role in the country’s history.
Many famous wine makers and wine making families were interviewed for the book, as well as the lesser known, covering much of France. And in particular Alsace, Bordeaux and Bougogne, with Beaune garnering a deeper focus.
The Lost Vintage
Interestingly it is this latter aspect, I suspect, that influenced the writer of The Lost Vintage. This book tells the fictional tale of a young French woman growing up on the edge of Beaune in a wine making family just before World War II commences. We are treated to the build up and perspective of a local as Germany advances, war is declared and ultimately France is occupied.
The book captures the sheer frustration as well as fear. It gives the reader a good, if fictionalised, feel of what it must have been like during that time. Alongside this story, the book is also placed in the 21st century. A tale of two times, and how the modern day characters unearth the story of WWII.
Read in Tandem
I read the fictional book first, following almost immediately with the non-fiction as the subject of the first had grabbed my interest enough to wish to know more of wine in this time. In this order, I discovered the author of the fictional tale had very obviously read the non-fiction book. It was easy to see like for like moments moved from reality into the fictional version.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to read these two books, in tandem. One gave the historic view, whilst the other puts the reader in the shoes of the main character. We learn, and then live the time frame in a sense.
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