Top 5 book and wine matches for autumn
There’s no better time than right now to self-isolate, dig into some fresh reads and chill with a glass (okay, two glasses!) of wine to make you feel like you’re on long service leave. We asked Laura Brading, Co-Founder of WellRead, for her top five autumn picks and teamed these up with our newest wine releases, that will carry you through to winter. Take your pick, bibliophiles…
WEATHER by Jenny Offill
Just about every review we've read of Jenny Offill's new novel hints that the author has been living inside the reviewer's mind; such is her ability to write that very specific cocktail of climate dread, political anxiety and hapless living that seems to be 2020’s mood. Told in brief snippets, Weather follows Lizzie Benson, a librarian who is enduring life in Trump's post-truth landscape of contemporary America. Sounds bleak we know (a reviewer described the books as the 'Five Stages of Climactic Grief'), but this small novel transcends bleak and produces something incredibly human and illuminating and surprisingly hilarious. Don't come to this book for the linear narrative or busy plot (those who have read Offill's excellent Dept. of Speculation will know that this is simply not her style) but do stay for that perfect balance of wit and wisdom that characterises Offill's writing and holds a mirror up to modern living.
Wine match: Get in the mood with this deep, dark, atomic grenache from La Mancha.
CHERRY BEACH by Laura McPhee-Browne
An unassuming and melancholic story about first love and friendship from a new voice in Australian fiction. The novel follows Melburnians Hetty and Ness as they fulfil a teenage dream and move to Canada together. Hetty is charming and captivating, the life of the party. Ness is a wallflower, hopelessly in love with her. In the student quarter of Toronto, the pair take a room in a share house full of self-assured creatives. Hetty disappears into barkeeping work and a whirlwind nightlife, while Ness drifts aimlessly. The book deftly captures the experiences that define youth: love, desire, loss, ambiguity. There is a vulnerability and rawness to McPhee-Browne's writing that many will compare to Sally Rooney and that is completely warranted.
Wine match: It'll be love at first sight and taste when you wrap your lips around this juicy Spanish rosé.
LONG BRIGHT RIVER by Liz Moore
Part literary thriller, part family saga, part police procedural, the novel takes place against the gritty backdrop of Kensington - a not-yet-gentrified neighbourhood in Philadelphia that is being devastated by the opioid crisis. Michaela “Mickey” Fitzpatrick is a cop and single mother; her younger sister, Kacey, a drug addict and prostitute. When Kacey goes missing amid a flurry of unsolved murders of women in the area, Mickey commits herself to finding Kasey and the killer, all the while hoping that her sister isn’t the next victim. Propulsive reading ensues. Hugely affecting and riveting, the book expertly crafts a portrait of a community in suffering by illuminating the realities of drug addiction and the networks that arise around it. The layered plot, sharp prose and complex characters elevate this book to something more than just a whodunnit piece of pulp fiction. It’s smart and sophisticated and has huge amounts of heart.
Wine match: After something equally as layered and complex? This 7-year McLaren Vale cab sav is the perfect match for this page turner.
THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE by Abi Daré
Sometimes you read a book and meet a character who is so authentic, so beloved and so unforgettable that it’s like they’re a living person. You feel as though you should be able to call them up, ask their advice, while away a Sunday arvo together. We’re thinking of the likes of Jude from A Little Life, Olive Kitteridge, Jo March! The Girl With the Louding Voice delivers another addition to this list. A powerful and emotional debut novel told in the unforgettable voice of 14-year-old Adunni, this is the story of a young Nigerian woman who is trapped in a life of servitude but determined to fight for her dreams and choose her own future. Adunni becomes a symbol of all young women who are struggling to be heard and reminds us how important it is to listen to their stories.
Wine pick: Pick up a bottle of this stunning Stellenbosch cabernet from American-born, South African resident winemaker, Virginia ‘Ginny’ Povall, who left her job as Chief Operating Officer at a large consulting firm in New York to start Botanica wines. Talk about inspiring!
UNCANNY VALLEY by Anna Wiener
The pull quote on the front of this book, from Rebecca Solnit no less, describes its author as like Joan Didion at a start-up. Do we even need to say more? It did its job and pulled us right in and, thank goodness, because this is an excellent read. Uncanny Valley recounts Anna Wiener's personal experiences working as an assistant at a drab New York literary agency during a time that she identified as being not quite poor but "privileged and downwardly mobile" to working in Silicon Valley during its height of tech industry idealism. What follows is an expose of the "boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty…a Silicon Valley far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building." Wiener is hilarious and shrewd and, as Molly Young said of her in her Vulture review, she has the two talents that every memoirist needs: "a devastating eye for detail (the CEO at an e-reading start-up misspells Hemingway’s name in his pitch deck, with two m’s) and the ability to map her experience onto a cultural shift much larger than herself."
Wine pick: If you need some heart and soul in your glass, pour yourself a glass of this gorgeous Beaujolais from winemaker, Anita Kuhnel, who prides herself on producing wines that respect terroir and quality of fruit equally.
And there you have it, our top 5 book and wine recommendations for self-isolation. Let us know what you’re reading, tweet us @vinomofo.