cover image Bordeaux

Bordeaux

Paul Torday, Author . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $24 (320p) ISB

Sophomore novelist Torday (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen ) meditates on the question of what money can and cannot buy in this subtle, sorrowful tale of a man who has mistaken his alcoholism for happy gluttony. Frances Wilberforce has pulled himself up from nothing; an orphan adopted by a family of middle-class means, he made a mint when he sold his software business. Drinking four bottles of wine a day, sometimes spending thousands of pounds on a single, exquisite bottle, Wilberforce doesn’t take long to drink his way through his new fortune. When friends confront him with his problem, he maintains that he does not have an addiction; rather, he has an interest in fine wine. It’s a fine distinction, and as the narrative tracks backwards to reveal the events that precipitated Wilberforce’s fall—the death of his wife, a series of new friendships with a set of dissolute, landed gentry—it sharpens its depiction of the cheerful face that money can put on an unhappy life. Torday is a talented writer and manages this sad story deftly, mixing in redeeming doses of humor and empathy. (Jan.)