Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Kayte Nunn’s book Angel’s Share is a story which transports the reader from the competitive corporate world in London to the open-ness and beauty of a valley of vineyards in the Australian countryside with its ‘searing bright light and cloudless blue sky’.
Matilda Cameron was a woman who directed million-pound advertising shoots with ease and was a far cry from Tilly Cameron, the angry teenager who’d practically scorched the earth in her haste to get away from the Shingle Valley. In London she meets Cara, a high fashion stylist who appears to be the exact opposite to the spikey haired Matilda whose preferred mode of dress consisted of jeans and a t-shirt. Despite this, these two Australian girls in London, became firm friends, forming a friendship which was to follow them back to their roots.
A terrible ski-ing accident sees Mattie, as she now prefers to be called, returning to her brother’s vineyard to recuperate, although she believes, only till she can return to her former life in London. Soon she is absorbed into the valley’s community and re-engages with the scenic beauty from her youth.
Autumn was in full swing in the valley and had turned the vine leaves russet and crimson. Mornings were cool and misty before the sun burned through. It had always been one of her favourite times of the year, with the beauty of the valley at its peak (163).
She becomes involved in helping the community fight for their survival against mining interests.
There are vineyards that date back to the 1800s in this valley! …What gives them the right hey?’…
Mark addressed the grumbling crowd, ‘I think we’re all agreed that mining would be disastrous for the valley, for the soil, the grapes, our businesses and for tourism. But the question is how can we stop it happening? What can we do? We need to act, and to act quickly (130 -31).
Through her involvement Mattie discovers that the skills she has acquired in London can be put to good use and may even be able to support her here in the valley, if she chooses to stay in Australia.
Feelings for an unattainable love interest in Australia are pitted against a job offer to be creative-director of an exclusive London Company. Mattie has a serious decision to make.
There are three love stories in this novel – Mattie and Charlie; Mattie’s brother, Mark, who has a Spanish ex-wife and has found love again with partner, Rose, and the beautiful Cara who seems to attract male attention like bees to a honey pot. Each of these relationships explore different issues.
Australian authors such as Kayte Nunn, have the ability to engage the reader not just in the storyline which in this book is about believable everyday people, but also by highlighting issues specific to the Australian lifestyle. Coming through strongly in Nunn’s work are the Australian ethos of mateship, especially in times of adversity, camaraderie, and the love of a party to celebrate milestones.
Now have you remembered that it’s Rose’s party tomorrow?…The butcher’s sending someone to help set up the suckling pig and spit-roast, everyone’s bringing a salad or a dessert, we’ve got to pick up some bread tomorrow, and Mark’s in charge of the wine – when you get the labels for him. [These were special labels for a new wine named after the birthday girl] (341).
Kayte Nunn, a mother of two girls, is a freelance book, magazine and web editor and the former editor of Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine so is well placed to give the reader an authentic insight into the wine industry. No doubt this is where the title she has chosen came from. It is explained to Cara that ‘angel’s share’ refers to “the small amount of wine from each barrel that gets lost to evaporation – it means that what’s left is all the sweeter so we gladly give up a fraction to the heavens” (230)
Angel’s Share is Nunn’s second book and features the characters from her first novel Rose Vintage, published in 2016. It is a tale of life and love in spectacular Shingle Valley and it really does charm and delight.
By Kayte Nunn