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Black Wine

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  263 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Why is there an old woman, in a hanging cage for punishment, keeping a journal written in blood? Candas Jane Dorsey has written an ambitious, feminist novel about women coming to terms with their identity in a barbarous fantasy world. Dorsey's women travel across the world, from the slave dens to the merchant cities, across seas by ship and by dirigible, to isolated mounta ...more
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Tor Books (first published 1996)
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Sarah Anne
Jan 19, 2017 Sarah Anne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads ratings, you have let me down again. This was a complex and very well written novel and it made me feel sick to my stomach. It was dark and disturbing and I just didn't like it, despite the fact that it had a lot of pluses on its side. So it gets an "I didn't like it" one star, even though the quality and ideas were 4.

One of the things that this book did very well was to create a wide variety of customs, mores, and sexual orientation acceptance. There were bisexual, homosexual, heteros
Dec 07, 2009 JP rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: superb
This is an old review, but I am glad that I found it, because "Black Wine" is one of the most interesting books I have ever read, from a number of different perspectives. The author is Candas Jane Dorsey.

This book is not for the faint of heart - it is chock full of sex (the good kind and the bad kind), perversion (the bad kind), horrific cruelty, suffering, and uppity women. The structure of the story is very interesting, three separate story lines that add to each other in a very subtle, sophis
Dec 20, 2014 kaśyap rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the more fascinating novels I have read in a long time. Very stylized and well structured.The book reminded me a lot of Gene Wolfe’s books in the surreal and dark world it creates. The themes dealt with in this are similar to that of Ursula Le Guin. All the major characters here are female and some major themes are female sexuality, freedom and oppression, history and identity, and the epistemological themes of language and perception.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 Althea Ann rated it it was amazing
I got this book as a birthday present from my sister.
As soon as I was done reading it (with that shuddering pleasure that only the absolute best books give you), I passed it back to her to read... and I still haven't got it back, because when she was done, she gave it to her boyfriend to read (someone who is not the biggest fantasy fan), and he won't read the very end, because "But once I finish it, it'll be over!"
I'm considering buying another copy, to re-read it and pass it on again to someone
Sep 13, 2008 Tracy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
4.5 stars

This book is as rich, complex, and worth savoring as one imagines the eponymous black wine to be. The characters are delightful and intriguing, and hold up well to the multiple-narrator structure (unlike certain other books The Boleyn Inheritance I've read recently). The plot is intricately structured and well-paced, and the themes are interesting without being overbearing. On top of all that, it is beautifully written, including some brilliant turns of phrase, one of my favorites being
Jan 20, 2014 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a little hard to get into, but oh my god, am I glad I stuck with it! It is a little confusing in the beginning, with too little information given to the reader. Some of the language choices made the reading, especially at the beginning, awkward.Setting aside the negatives (of which there are few), a couple of chapter in, I was so hooked that I stayed up all night to finish the book. As the world of Black Wine becomes clear and the women's stories are pulled together I found myself e ...more
Leif Erik
Jan 02, 2008 Leif Erik rated it it was ok
Recommended to Leif Erik by: people who want to read the softer side of Anne Rampling
What starts out as a fairly bleak fantasy book (major points) devolves into a cross between a Margret Atwood parody and the naughtier bits of Anne Rice. Still there was some fairly cool passages, just wish Dorsey hadn't got all caught up in how sensitive her characters were.

I pictured all the male characters as having ponytails. Not good.
Oct 06, 2008 Ysabet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff, booksreadin2008
The prose and structure in Black Wine are beautifully done, and the worldbuilding is intriguing, but I didn't find myself terribly attached to the story or characters. That's because it's not the kind of book I fall for, though, rather than being a flaw in the work.
Good Points:

Interesting. Weird but interesting.
Very generational, heavy focus on mothers, absent mothers especially.
Political uprisings! And their inherent problems.
Addresses privilege.
You’re left wondering about timelines/identity, are these people the same person or different people? How many different women are you reading about? Everything clears up about halfway through but even then you’re not ENTIRELY certain.
This is a book about women being women and finding themselves in a dangerous fan
Mar 21, 2016 Elena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book felt like a dream. And sometimes a nightmare.

The setup of the book was really unique and intriguing, in the first half. The way the story lines seem disconnected and eventually intertwine is perfect, but I can see where some would find the vagueness annoying. This kind of flowery prose isn't for everyone, and I found myself having to reread a lot of sentences just to understand the clunky wording.

The world building was wonderfully done. It doesn't spell anything out, and a lo
Malcolm Logscribe
Beautiful, warm, tragic, sexy, painful, bitter, sweet.

Mothers and daughters and journeys, escape, return, language, loss, story.

It's difficult to start, and I really loath dream sequences, but everything fits together beautifully by the end. I love the characters, even the ones I didn't like, and I love love love their relationships. There are many distinct cultures and they're rich and delicious. I almost loved this book.

It loses one star for preaching a bit about sexual freedom/promiscuity/non
Jan 16, 2014 Leah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Debated about whether to give this two or three stars. The writing is not particularly flawed, I just didn't really care for any of the characters. Narrative seemed disconnected in a way that meant I never got really involved or engrossed in the world. That's not to say that other readers won't, though. I can easily see why others might really enjoy this book. I just didn't.

Certain aspects of the story got on my nerves. Magic didn't really show up until halfway through the novel, and at that poi
Jan 17, 2014 Laurie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book a difficult read. We don’t learn the names of some of the characters until late in the game, and the story jumps from plot line to plot line. Some names are very similar to each other. And absolutely nothing is explained; it’s just action and dialogue. The setting seems to be a future earth, where settlements are far flung and have very different languages and social customs from each other; some are horrendously authoritarian, some easy going; some have people who never touch ...more
Sep 16, 2011 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi-fantasy, lgbt
Debating between 4 and 5 stars for this really well-written novel. Basically it's a novel set on another planet or a future Earth, in which there are a range of cultures with widely varying access to technology and vastly different cultural practices. Some seem dystopian, some utopian, some just different. You might call this anthropological sci-fi a la LeGuin. At first the different chapters seem to be following totally unrelated stories, but the threads come together part way through the book. ...more
Hmm. Although there were parts of this I enjoyed, I can't say it was really my cup of tea.

When I read it some forty years ago, I loved One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the irritation of not knowing who exactly was being referred to, the mix of generations and names was soothed by the astoundingly strong and beautiful prose and imagery. There are pictures from that book which still haunt me.

Here too, I found it very irritating trying to decipher which generation, whi
Aug 07, 2016 Dato rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Wine is a beautiful book that I’ll return to at some point in the future.

I discovered it through Jo Walton’s bookshelves, and at times it reminded me of her own books. No surprise I liked it, then.

The undercurrent beneath the story is, I guess, an ethnography. I do prefer SF that focus on the people (human or not), rather than on technology or even ideas.

The imagined cultures described in this book (its anthropology) fit inside “the possible,” but the book does not limit itself to the desi
I liked this however, the first 150 or so pages of the book are hard to keep track of. I ended up setting this aside for a couple of weeks before returning to it last week because of this. I liked the way the story was constructed, and the non linear movement of the plot. I just had a really hard time keeping the story tellers apart at first as they were all written from the same point of view just about other events.

When the three story lines started to tie together the novel became very quick
Jun 09, 2009 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this paperback after reading an articulate and intelligent interview given by author Candas Jane Dorsey in Bi Women, the newsletter of the Boston Bisexual Women's Network.

Like much of the fiction of Ursula LeGuin, who enthusiastically blurbs the book, Black Wine is more social fiction than science fiction. This story of five generations of women in a royal family on a world than may or may not be earth in the future is concerned largely with differences in social structure and langua
Apr 05, 2010 Lise rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
Black Wine is definitely SF, but exactly within that genre it's hard to place. I finally decided it's more soft Science Fiction than steampunk fantasy.

It's a book with many interconnecting themes. It's about how our childhood molds us, and how language shapes thought. It's about living the lives of our mothers, finding them or escaping them. I'd call it 'womens fiction' only in that the main characters are all women. The societies in the story are very nearly gender neutral. Polyamory and bisexu
Kathy Piselli
Sep 26, 2016 Kathy Piselli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I say there's a lot of sex in this book, will that make more people want to read it? If so, I'll say it: there is a lot of sex both good and bad. Otherwise, this is a dreamy, fascinating world of lands north, south, east, and west, all with different languages and customs. Threaded throughout are the lives of a series of women with similar names and the women and men who love and hate them. The writing is excellent and the ideas pop out of it like a popcorn popper. I struggled sometimes keepi ...more
Victoria Radford
What a tour-de-force. Black Wine is not only a darkly satisfying piece of literary sci -fi, but a blisteringly uncompromising exploration of gender, identity and sexual politics. Gorgeously written, it was no surprise to discover that Candas Jane Dorsey is a poet, and her love of words shines through the story. At times the shifts between narrative voices could be confusing, but as the story unfolds the reason for this blurring of identity becomes clear. There is beauty in bleakness. Wonderful.
Dec 30, 2013 Gökçe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: günce-için
I've received Black Wine from LTER and was excited to read. I'm a man and never read feminist literature before. However I'm an avid fantasy reader so thought it would be a provoking experience.

It was an experience however not a very good one. My problem with the book isn't its topic but it's writing style. There seems to be no cohesion and sometimes it's frustrating. I guess it's a big literary achievement but not my type of book.

Ian Prest
The book was hampered by some particularly difficult-to-understand prose, especially in the first third.

I'm not sure I understand the ending. Or, really, much of the deeper meaning in the book.

The story itself was decent enough, even though the main character was kind of flaky.
May 05, 2015 Katariina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, bookcrossing
I loved this book! It has such unique ideas written beautifully. I don't know what more to say about it but it fills my head with thoughts and warmth. :)
The writing style reminds me of Ursula K. Le Guin.
Nov 28, 2011 Neile rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favourite books ever. How often do you read a novel and when you come to the end want to flip it to the front and start all over again?
Ry Herman
Jan 14, 2017 Ry Herman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, lgbt
A strange and complex fantasy novel following five generations of women, their loves and lives. Excellent, very lyrical, and sometimes brutal. Explores issues of gender, identity, and freedom.
Jan 17, 2010 Leigh added it
Black wine by Candas Jane Dorsey (1997)
Sep 27, 2011 Catherine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trash, fiction
I really enjoyed the first one hundred and fifty pages but the author lost me in the second half, it got unnecessarily complex and the writing fell off a bit.
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Candas Jane Dorsey (born November 16, 1952) is a Canadian poet and science fiction novelist.
Born and still living in Edmonton, Alberta, Dorsey became a writer from an early age, and a freelance writer since 1980. She writes across genre boundaries, writing poetry, fiction, mainstream and speculative, short and long form, arts journalism and arts advocacy. Dorsey has also written television and sta
More about Candas Jane Dorsey...

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