Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator)

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Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator)

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: If a flavour of your favourite tipple can be said to take you back to a previous time, what might happen to you and some new friends if you all start drinking something touched by a UFO? Such a bonkers concept would appear beneath a Laurain book, but this is still up there with his warm-hearted best.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: June 2019
Publisher: Gallic Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781910477670

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Vintage 1954 starts by thrusting several completely different characters upon us, before deciding to run with them and formulate a plot. So we have an American biker, just landing in Paris but unfortunately not with the wife who shared his dream of visiting the city together. We have a goth girl who everyone recognises from an American crime show, but actually is a humble restorer of antiques. We have a cocktail barman, infatuated with the goth girl. We also have a man ruling the roost over a whole suite of individual apartments fabricated from the Haussmann-era mansion his family once owned. Finally something conspires to get them together, and drinking from the same bottle of a rare 1954 red wine. Only, one of them has a bizarre incidence in his family history that also features the same plonk – where a grandfather imbibed, and walked out the door one rainy morning, never to be seen again. But of course nobody will be doing any disappearing now, though – will they?

This is a suitably bizarre set-up for a love letter to Paris. It's a love-letter to the same light-hearted, rather-contrived-but-none-the-worse-for-it, engaging little novels from this author, too. You could also call it a 'thank you' to some people in Milwaukee, but that's too much detail. As the four people arrive in 1954, seemingly because of the wine, we see the humour of the four of them waking up in ignorance, and perhaps even blaming the different street vehicles and décor as being down to an official vintage transport weekend. But as the four of them are proven homeless and jobless, what on earth are they to do to get back?

This is the first new novel to come from Antoine Laurain in three years – any others to crop up since the previous were older works only belatedly translated. He's definitely more sci-fi than before, with specialists in UFOlogy and whatnot peppering the pages, but still fixated on the romantic connections a city like Paris forces on her occupants. He's also showing his first career in antiques, still, as we see the inventory of the Haussmann apartments both now and in the 1950s. But what we see is his humanity, where the books can be slightly unassuming adventures for slightly unassuming characters. Seldom do I recognise that in what I read – one particular scene, in a church, really had some of the Mitch Albom DNA about it.

It looks like the finished piece will come with a page of book group questions, so I'll close by referring to a couple of those. Is this a fairy tale, it posits? Well, it's certainly more so than not. Is the sci-fi element here moving Laurain into a different realm? Well, it's by far his most outre deus ex machina, but one that doesn't strike me as off-kilter as far as his output goes. And finally, is this an optimistic book? Undoubtedly so. It shows the world isn't perfect, for people have strife, dislikeable neighbours, the need to vanish in the direction of Chile, and no mobile phone signal for another two generations, but something or someone can always come along and make our world a lot more perfect than before. One such is M Laurain himself, for he really is most readable, warm-hearted and enjoyable.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Portrait was the latest instance of the publishers catching up with young Laurain output, at time of writing.

Buy Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain, Jane Aitken (translator) and Emily Boyce (translator) at Amazon.com.

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