Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Source: Digital Galley courtesy of Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. Thank you!
Published: June 2, 2015 by Simon & Schuster
There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…
Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands. But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever. Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…
After reading and adoring Dave’s previous novels- The Divorce Party, The First Husband and London is the Best City in America- it is safe to say that I was really looking forward to this newest contemporary title. Unfortunately, this is a case where I really wanted to like the novel more than I actually did. As a standard contemporary romantic comedy, Eight Hundred Grapes fits the bill. You’ve got: a headstrong, romantically confused female protagonist; a countdown to a wedding; a lush and idyllic landscape; a potential love triangle; and, last but not least, bursting familial entanglements.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with or unlikable about Eight Hundred Grapes, but here’s the thing: I think Dave’s previous novels were heads above this newest novel. Dave is, I think, a wonderful writer with a fluid, almost lyrical style but I found that special element to be lost here in this novel. Perhaps this could be owing to: slightly underdeveloped supporting characters; a somewhat harried plot with multiple running storylines; or the present-to-past alternating chapters which read as slightly atonal. Another major reason I have loved Dave’s contemporary novels is that they are romantic yet unidealized all at once- on top of packing serious emotional resonance. I personally felt that immediacy and urgency missing here.
I feel as though Eight Hundred Grapes couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be whimsical and light like a Kate Hudson rom-com (or something like the TV movie Diamond Girl) or if it was trying to be a dramedy like This Is Where I Leave You. Overall, Eight Hundred Grapes is an enjoyable summery read, but did not hold my rapt attention or interest as much as the author’s previous novels have.
I received this book as a digital galley from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.