“That’s what this game is all about, Mariana. I didn’t make the rules. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And the higher the stakes, the bigger the fall.” (Mauro, Location 610 in Kindle edition)
The Vineyard tells the story of a man, fallen from his self-made tower, and his resilience in the face of adversity. María Dueñas takes her readers on a wild ride from the silver mines of Mexico to the sensuous streets of Havana and, finally, to the lively wine region of Andalusia, Spain in the late nineteenth century.
On the verge of losing everything, Mauro Larrea sets out to maintain his family’s livelihood, reputation, and prominent position in society. By nature, Mauro is a risk-taker; fortunately, his gambles have all paid off—until now.
Dueñas brings her readers into the story using vivid descriptions and rich language. I loved the way her writing clearly painted a picture of each scene in my mind. I highlighted this particular passage illustrating the streets of Mexico City:
Throngs of people of diverse complexions filled the streets bustling to and fro as they did every day. Indigenous women carrying huge bunches of flowers, their infants wrapped in shawls on their backs; dark-skinned men balancing on their heads big earthenware jars brimming with sweetmeats or lard; beggars and soldiers, honest citizens and charlatans, all moving about ceaselessly from morning to night. (Location 670 in Kindle edition)
As someone who longs to visit the wine regions of Spain, I adored Dueñas’s mastery of setting the scene, especially in the last section of the book. I literally smelled the old wine scents that lingered in the winery and about the town of Jerez.
However, even with all of the beautiful scenery, The Vineyard carried on too long. I did not relate to the characters or their circumstances; hence, reading this book felt like a chore. Even though my mind engaged with the language, my heart simply could not connect with any of the characters or their personal dilemmas.
Perhaps the only exception to this is Larrea’s right-hand man, Santos Huesos. Santos Huesos, loyal to the bitter end, falls in love with an enslaved woman on their visit to Cuba. This story line and Dueñas’s discussion of slavery were, at the very least, interesting to consider from the perspective of Larrea, a non-American during the Civil War era.
The Vineyard escorts readers into a world of luxury and shows just how far desperation can lead a man. For a reader who loves long reads, lush language, and history, The Vineyard would be the perfect accompaniment for a cozy, fall day.
Rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All thoughts, opinions, and ratings are my own.
Cover image courtesy of Goodreads.