Corkscrew by Peter Stafford-Bow - a review
Territory : UK & Commonwealth
Translation rights : Andrew Lownie
Book description :
Felix Hart, a tragic orphan, is expelled from school, cast out on to the British high street, and forced to make his way in the cut-throat world of wine retail. Thanks to a positive mental attitude, he is soon forging a promising career, his sensual adventures taking him to the vineyards of Italy, South Africa, Bulgaria and Kent.
His path to the summit, however, is littered with obstacles. Petty office politics, psychotic managers and the British Board of Wine & Liquor prove challenging enough. But when Felix negotiates the world’s biggest Asti Spumante deal, he is plunged into a vicious world of Mafiosi, people smuggling and ruthless multinationals.
Part thriller, part self-help manual and part drinking companion, Corkscrew is a coruscating critique of neo-liberal capitalism, religious intolerance and the perils of blind tasting.
Corkscrew by Peter Stafford-Bow is a slap-stick comedy about the world of wine. The main character is Felix Hart, an orphan who has had to make his own way in the world by any means necessary, and as a result, falls into quite a few pickles. His escapades (both sexual and otherwise) are entertaining and very much 'in your face'.
Unlike in most novels where the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist, there is no glorification of his/her actions in this one. Felix is flawed, and terribly so, an exaggerated everyman, and not a very likeable one at that. He is an opportunist who gets out of most scrapes by virtue of his quick wit and quite a bit of blind luck. His sense of humour has the 'absurdities delivered with a deadpan delivery' quality that epitomises British humor. All the characters are similarly exaggerated and embody the different cultural stereotypes of the environments that they inhabit. Until about halfway into the novel, the various interwoven storylines move at a fast pace. But then it slows down and doesn't quite pick up the pace afterwards. The language, in general, is flowery, but not overtly so. The story in itself is highly engaging (though improbable), who knew the inner workings of the wine industry employed operations (and operatives) worthy of MI6 !
All in all, Corkscrew is an interesting piece of satire that presents the often preposterous nature of human existence coated in thinly veiled sarcasm. The story of Felix Hart and his questionable (and often unappetizing, more Deadpool than Captain America, if you get my drift) life choices might not make you think, might not even induce a vicarious thrill in you, but will definitely make you laugh out loud a few times. It is not a story that stays with you afterwards, but it is one that will take the blues away from a rainy day.