“Garden work clears the mind.” ― Joanne Harris
'Blackberry Wine' by Joanne Harris was like finding a home in a book. The story centres on Jay Mackintosh whose time has turned into ‘a blur of days without anything to define them from each other, like episodes of a soap he watched out of habit, even though none of the characters interested him’ and who longs to return to his childhood innocence with his friend Joe’s guiding influence. As a child, Jay worked with Joe to plant up unwanted land at the edge of a railway track and Joe uses a combination of gardening techniques and herbal remedies to control the weeds and pests on the land, one such way is to hang talismans filled with herbs on plants to ward away certain pests. After all “a few hundred years ago there were no differences between magic and medicine.”
However, Jay grew up and in that time Joe disappeared out of Jay’s life suddenly, which Jay never really came to terms with or understood. His adult life was like a ‘empty road in the desert’, however a chance finding of a bottle of home-brewed wine left to him by Joe seems to provide both the key to an old mystery and a doorway into another world. Jay escapes his current life to a run down farm house in France and meets his neighbour Marise, a haunted and kind mother who hides a secret from her past too.
A genuine, heartfelt book about the hold our childhood and pasts have over us and how the simple things in life, good company and good wine, and doing straightforward, honest work is really all we need.