About this Book
By Carolyn Ray
Thanks to JourneyWoman Vanessa, who recommended this book, we’re heading to France for Ann Mah’s “The Lost Vintage“.
The Lost Vintage is 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. She’s also trying to pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. Deep inside a hidden wine cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a 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.⠀
Our Take on this Novel
Not only was this beautifully written, we learned a lot about wine! But this is also a story about the past – is it better to uncover it and face the truth, or let it be? Things feel somewhat resolved at the end of this novel, or are they? Our book club discussion was one of the best, raising some provocative topics that took us into some deep self-discovery.
Does it inspire us to pack our bags to France? Yes: a solid four out of five. And we’d like to enjoy a glass of burgandy on the plane, too!
Carolyn and Wendy, your book club hosts
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The Lost Vintage, by Ann Mah
Recommended by: Vanessa
Published in: 2018
Abstract: 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. 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. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love. 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.
ABOUT ANN MAH
Ann is based in Paris and Hanoi, Vietnam, where her husband is on a diplomatic assignment. Her articles on food and travel have appeared in the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, the Washington Post, Vogue.com, Food52, BonAppétit.com, Best American Travel Writing 2017, Washingtonian magazine, and other publications.
The Lost Vintage is a USA Today bestseller and Indie Next pick. She has also written a memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating – which was an Amazon best book of 2013, and winner of the Elle readers prize – and a novel, Kitchen Chinese, which Publishers Weekly called “a great start for a writer with much promise.” She is also the author of Instantly French, a French cookbook for the Instant Pot and other multifunctional electric pressure cookers. My books have been translated into over twelve languages.
Ann has called many other places home, including Washington, D.C., Orange County, California, New York City, and Beijing, China.
OUR FAVOURITE PASSAGE
Heather tells her son when going to her Uncles for dinner:
“Please eat everything Meme serves you today. Even if you hate it don’t say anything –just take tiny bites and chew and swallow really fast.”
1. What is your favourite part or passage of the book and why?
2. What did you learn that you didn’t already know about France? About being a wine sommelier?
3. At one point in the book, Uncle Philippe confronts Kate about her investigating and tells her to stop looking into Hélène and the family’s history. Though Kate refuses to do so, do you think Uncle Philippe had a point? Are there ever circumstances when it is best to let the past lie?
4. How might Kate’s life have been different if she’d stayed in France all those years ago? How did her years away affect her in positive and negative ways?
5. What do we owe the past? At the end of the book, Heather is determined to teach her family about Hélène and the family’s deeds during World War II. Is it our duty to pass on family history to the next generation?
6. The Lost Vintage shows that though there were many French résistants acting during the war, there were also many French people who essentially supported the Nazis through complicity, often for survival’s sake. As Rose says at one point, “It’s much safer to do nothing.” Do you think these actions are wartime phenomena, or are there ways in which we can show courage or remain complicit in a similar way in day to day life? How does this relate to travel?
7. The similarities in appearance between Kate and Hélène are striking from the moment the first photos of Hélène are found. In what other ways are Kate and Hélène similar and different? What is it about them that connects them throughout the mystery?