The Champagne War by Fiona McIntosh
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Fiona McIntosh
Published: November 2020
Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Pages: 413 [paperback]
Big thank to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy in exchange for review!
Initial Thoughts upon Finishing
I am now convinced there is nothing McIntosh can write that I won’t love. This was such an excellent story and towards the end I could NOT put it down. Set against the backdrop of WWI and a tale of love lost and found, it was addictive to read and extra romantic for the setting of the Champagne region.
The Champagne War
This is a beautiful story about Sophie, the heir to one of the big champagne estates (Delancré in this book) and how she copes on the home front after her new love goes off to war. It’s an intriguing story about champagne making (I honestly learnt so much *and* I read this whilst on holiday in a wine reading, how fitting) and the gory nature of the trench fighting during WWI.
We also follow the story of a few soldiers—a relative of Sophie’s and a British soldier fighting in France called Charlie. The stories slowly connect to give us a wonderful interweaving of narratives, whilst additionally serving to give us a good look at how the fighting went down.
I love the way that McIntosh writes history because it’s a powerful and addictive story wrapped up in a delicious historical backdrop that you can actually learn some stuff about. We follow Sophie’s journey of dealing with loss, not knowing when to move on and being a strong woman in an important industry when most of her peers are men.
Why I Loved This
I really connected with the characters in this story. Just like McIntosh’s other books, Sophie is a strong woman who is not reliant upon anyone else to achieve her goals. She fiercely manages her champagne estate independently and is widely respected for her dedication and resourcefulness.
I enjoyed the way the two main stories of Sophie and Charlie came together in unexpected ways. It was tantalising and teased the imagination—not to mention challenged the moral compass in the of passion. It was agonising to not know if Jerome would make it home and the way that Sophie battled with her dedication to him and her need to not waste her life if he were never to return.
I also really appreciated that this wasn’t just a romance set in a war setting for drama, but used the romance and connections between characters to logically tie together settings (trenches vs champagne fields) and make the whole narrative make sense whilst feeling “real”.
Why You Should Read This
I have been continually impressed by everything I’ve read by McIntosh so far. The Champagne War was no exception (though I confess nothing is as good as The Pearl Thief, that really was something else) with vivid images painted in our minds of the scenes and tangible characters who had substance.
One of the other things that adds a good depth to the story is the brother in law, who is so sinister. The greasy advances and deceitful manipulations put in place by him is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. He was this wonderful looming shadow of a bad guy that added a real threat of time running out and good motives for the characters to make the decisions that they did.
If you’re looking for a bit of history, not just about the war but about how champagne is made, then I definitely recommend picking this up. It’s easy-going, nothing too dense, and with a will-they-won’t-they romance tastefully put in the mix to keep you coming back for more.
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