Friday, September 2, 2011

Review: Corked by Kathryn Borel

Kathryn Borel goes off to France on a wine tasting trip with her oenophile father after she has a terrible car accident that has made her cognizant of her dad's mortality. But her sudden revelation about the fleeting nature of life isn't the only thing that she comes face to face with during this tour the breadth of France. She spends quite a lot of her time deconstructing the romantic relationship she's ended just before leaving as well. While she and her father do indeed travel around to different vineyards, this is more a journey to knowing and understanding each other, and at least in Kathryn's case, in understanding herself better. The wine vacation is simply the framework upon which hangs the tales of Kathryn's feelings and relationships.

This memoir is billed as the tale of a wine innocent daughter and her expert father learning about each other as much as about wine and vintners. Truly though, the information about wine and the trip itself is sparse and not terribly satisfying. Instead, the two relationships, between Kathryn and her father and Kathryn and ex-boyfriend Matthew, take center stage. Unfortunately, in the case of the father daughter dynamics, I'm not certain their relationship translated particularly sympathetically to the page. It is easy to see that Kathryn is reduced to childishness when around her domineering father but he is also reduced to a fairly childish caricature in these pages. The by-play between the father and daughter, which I suspect could be funny and entertaining in real life, limps along on the page. Inside jokes are only funny to those in the know and we readers aren't enough in the know here to recognize and appreciate those found here. When the narrative veers to Kathryn's relationship (or former relationship) with Matthew, it feels as if the reader is being dragged out of one story and into another one entirely, one only tangentially related to the original story. Somehow there had to be a way to connect the two threads and then weave them convincingly against the backdrop of Kathryn's life changing accident, but it's done so loosely that it loses what needs to be an effective, tight connection. Ultimately disappointing, this road trip used as therapy memoir might have been cathartic for Borel to write but therapy sessions aren't engrossing reading for anyone other than the subject(s) or therapists in training to read and this doesn't disprove that.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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