Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review- The Widow Cliquot

“The Widow Clicquot is someone we should all know about.... Long a shadowy, legend-obscured figure, in Tilar Mazzeo’s agile hands the widow sheds her weeds and takes form before our eyes as a distinctly modern entrepreneur....The result is narrative history that fizzes with life and feeling.”

Thus wrote one reviewer of this book, and having just finished it I can heartily agree. It is the first thing I've read in a while that was a pure pleasure from start to finish, and the narrative style makes for an easy and fast-paced journey. I learned so much about wine-making, history (both cultural and broadly European), and social convention. It was at times hard to put down. From the terrifying times of the Revolution to Napoleon, the Franco-Prussian War and nineteenth-century gentleman's clubs, it showcased the business acumen, heartbreak, and daring of a remarkable woman, the widow (veuve) Cliquot, who founded a champagne empire in the aftermath of her husband's early death.

At times it seemed as if the odds were too high and the times too dangerous for anyone to have survived and thrived, but that's exactly what she did through a combination of shrewd decisions, dangerous ventures, technological advances, and pure luck. Through it all both the historical figure and the author herself shine through, larger than life; one in a quest for success, and the other chasing after the woman behind the incredible true story.

More than a tale of economics and women's stuggle for equality, it's a human story with the best of themes; loss, rebirth, and triumphing over tremendous adversity. I found it truly inspiring.

Read this book? Liked it? Hated it? Leave me a comment to let me know!

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