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Reviews Tue Jan 28 2014

Book Review: Vintage Attraction by Charles Blackstone

17654685.jpgWhen a friend found out I was reading Vintage Attraction, she asked me what I thought of the book.

"Um, I'm still trying to figure that out," I said. "There are some good things about it. Blackstone likes puns, which is cool. There are a lot of Chicago culinary hotspots mentioned. There's a pug."

My friend couldn't help but laugh. "Listen to what you're saying! There's a pug???"

She called me out, and there was no way around it. In vino, veritas. The same thing could be said about book reviews. So this is my truth: I read Vintage Attraction, and was mystified by the very public fanfare it seemed to be receiving. Had we read the same book?

To start: Yes, there are things that work in this novel about the romantic relationship between adjunct professor Peter Hapworth and local celebrity sommelier Izzy Conway. Set in Chicago, the novel provides a diverse food map of the city and manages to capture the charm of beloved neighborhood haunts like Milk & Honey, Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, and others. Blackstone's descriptions of wines were vivid enough to make an oenophile like myself thirsty for every bottle mentioned. Of course, the possible real life parallels between the character's courtship and Blackstone's own romance with Alpana Singh is part of the appeal. Gossip aficionados will be entertained when attempting to separate fact from fiction. There are puns, if you're into that sort of thing. (I am, but I realize it's one of my "charming" quirks.) There is a pug.

However, none of this is enough to elevate what is essentially a flat love story between a creepy dude and his she-could-definitely-do-better-than-him-wife. It was to be expected that their whirlwind romance would slow down into dysfunction, if only to keep the narrative going. But do all their issues have to be fabrications of Peter's petty and neurotic mind? Does Izzy have to be unnecessarily secretive when a simple explanation would suffice? Then again, maybe I would keep things to myself too if my husband snooped in my inbox without my permission. Perhaps this was all meant to convey depth, something about the inevitability of standing in the way of our own happiness, but it comes off as a tale about two people wanting to be miserable for misery's sake. Yawn.

During a conversation with a wine importer, Izzy points out that "safe and typical are the least interesting wine descriptors." Books are very much like wine in that way. You want to savor something new and unexpected whenever you delve into a novel. Vintage Attraction gives you a bit of a buzz but I doubt you'll want to go back for more once it's done.

Image courtesy of Goodreads

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