Published by William Morrow on August 6, 2019
Source: the publisher
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“If you enjoyed Sarah’s Key and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, then this wonderful book by Ann Mah is for you.” — Tatiana de Rosnay
Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turning novel about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy and unexpectedly uncovers a lost diary, an unknown relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since World War II.
To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife, Heather, who now oversee day-to-day management of the grapes. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love.
At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousin clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation.
As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
So incredibly good! I was completely transported to France while I was reading The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah.
While visiting her family at their vineyard in France, Kate discovers a hidden area in the basement that has been walled-off for decades. Inside, there are countless bottles of expensive and rare wine, an area that looks to have been a safe place for someone to hide out during World War II, and some belongings from a family member that was previously unknown to her. As Kate and her family dig further into what they’ve just found, they are shocked at parts of their own family history. They’re also overjoyed at the prospect of discovering that they own some of the most sought-after wine in the entire world. But why was the wine hidden in a secret cave in the basement?
There are two storylines here. In the present day, Kate and her family and friends search feverishly for more information about what they’ve found, and I loved the mystery that came with that search. The more details that were uncovered, the faster I read. Between their quest for information about the secret wine-filled cave area and the search for more information about the person that wrote the journal during the Occupation, I learned some things about the French during World War II that I didn’t know before. (There is plenty of page-time about the Resistance and those who chose to collaborate with the Nazis, and I was able to go online and look up real pictures and details about the events in this story. Just, wow.)
The storyline from the 1940’s made the entire story more emotionally intense and robust. Helene-she wrote the journal that I mentioned above-describes her first-hand experiences living during the 1940’s in France. She speaks of tremendous loss, as well as a constant fear and anxiety that her some of her own activities and feelings would be discovered by the enemy.
Both storylines are wonderful. I think that each storyline would stand alone very well if it was the only part of the story that was included, so the story is doubly-good since it contains both. I found them both equally engaging and I never felt like I wanted to hurry through one part so I could get to the other. There is the perfect amount of mystery in the present-day with all of the information-seeking. Details about Kate’s own life were also threaded throughout, particularly with regard to her career, and I was invested in whether or not she would achieve her goals within the story.
And OH MY GOSH, the author is clearly very familiar with the French setting and wine scene. I could almost taste and smell all of the foods she describes in these pages.
The Lost Vintage was fantastic. I enjoyed every single second of this reading experience. I loved learning more about what was happening in this place and time. Historical fiction fans will love this one; particularly, readers that enjoy food and wine stories and those that enjoy World War II stories will probably be as riveted as I was.