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The Vintage and the Gleaning is set in a winemaking town in the north-east of Victoria, close to the Murray River. Smithy is a retired shearer turned vineyard worker who has recently been forced to give up drinking after a lifetime of alcoholism. In his new sobriety he is contemplating the world in which he lives and the man he has been and become with a new understanding. Assaulted by long forgotten memories, Smithy is forced to take stock of his own past.
Overwhelmed with feelings of regret, guilt, loss and nostalgia for the past, Smithy is trapped in a blind search for meaning as he realises that he cannot undo the repercussions of his wasted life. He is a desperate and lonely old man seeking beauty in an ugly world.
Living in the same town is Charlotte, a young woman in a dangerous relationship, whose misfortunes have led her into an uneasy friendship with Smithy. It is in his confused and ultimately futile attempts to help Charlotte that he seeks redemption.
‘This is one of the most irresistible novels I’ve read in a long time. The writing is powerful, challenging and utterly authentic. I feel as if I’ve been waiting for years to read this strangely beguiling novel.’
‘There’s a lyricism in the language and a depth to the emotions laid bare here that’s utterly irresistible. Add to that a genuine and honest depiction of Australian working men and what you have is quite a remarkable novel…The Vintage and the Gleaning is an impressive novel, one which many seasoned writers would be proud to call their own. That it comes from a first-time novelist is astounding.’
‘the gentle title belies the tough beauty of Chambers’ prose. This novel is written with sinewy strength. It creates its characters with small but powerful gestures. They are gloriously understated. The Vintage and the Gleaning speaks quietly to powerful effect. It is a book whose silences are golden. It is both perceptive and compassionate. It understands the hard stuff and embraces hard people.‘
‘The novel’s lengthy passages of dialogue instill the book with a sharp playfulness; Chambers could have a future not only as a novelist but also as a dramatist.’
‘[The Vintage and the Gleaning] impress[es] with a visceral appreciation for the routines of work…the true voice of Chambers’ resonantly Faulknerian saga comes through the minutely detailed, deeply authentic evocation of work life among the vines, in the sharing shed and in a plethora of country pubs.‘
‘a beautiful, harrowing novel about lives wasted and awry.’
‘Beautifully written and sketching the Australian landscape and weather conditions with authenticity and insight, there’s a mood of nihilism as in Albert Camus’ The Outsider, stirred with the descriptive prose of Tim Winton in Dirt Music…a rewarding read.‘
‘Without a doubt the most distinguished first novel by an Australian writer I have read for a long time…by turns harsh and lyrical, satiric and compassionate, and ultimately tragic.’
‘A beautiful, harrowing novel.’
‘one of the best evocations I’ve read of both the hard beauty of Australia’s warm wine landscapes and the hard urgency of Australian male drinking culture.’
‘a small gem of a book. The content is secondary to the style which is simple, pared down and precise. However this does give the novel a slight feeling of airlessness as you tiptoe through pages of beautiful prose, nodding in admiration at lovingly rendered descriptions.’
‘Chamber’s understated account of a retired sheep shearer in a small Australian town deserves a wide readership…The rhythms of this life, the work, the terse banter among the men, and the relentless desperation…are economically conveyed…and the descriptions of ghost gums, the malignancy of circling crows and the omnipresent bleached, exhausted landscape are superb.’
‘This terrific Australian first novel is set in a working world. Smithy is an old man on his last legs, labouring in a vineyard. He notices the beauty of the land around him. He notices and observes the people around him and is haunted by the sudden clarity of his past. He steps in to help Charlotte, a desperate young woman, and she gives a little purpose to his life. Chambers writes very powerfully about the sadness of memory.’