The Wine Lover's Daughter

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 07 Nov 2017

Member Reviews

There are few writers I would follow if they decided to write a history of the life and times of dust bunnies, but if Anne Fadiman decided to do so, I would not only read it, but consider myself honored to have the opportunity. 

Therefore I leapt at the opportunity to read Fadiman’s memoir, The Wine-Lover’s Daughter, about her father the book critic, essayist, radio host, television guest, etc. etc. Clifton Fadiman. 

Now, full disclosure: I read an introductory essay Clifton Fadiman wrote for a book - it was a manly Western of some variety; I forget exactly which because I didn’t end up reading it, because I found Fadiman’s jocular male chauvinism completely insufferable. He kept going on - in far more graceful prose than this; I take nothing away from him as a stylist - about how this was a MANLY book for MEN and if any little ladies happened to find themselves reading this, they might want to find something more suitable, but if they persevere they might find the book a refreshing delight from the effete tea party books they usually read, etc. etc. 

Barf and gag me. 

Fadiman fille acknowledges her father’s chauvinism, and notes the complicated way that his chauvinism interacted with raising an actual daughter. He supported not only her writing career but her growth and development as a person: the letters he wrote to her while she was in France on a class trip as a teenager are a delight to write. 

(Although the book is mainly about Clifton Fadiman, there’s a good bit about the rest of the family as well. I feel that I got to know them all in Ex Libris and it’s nice to have, as it were, a reunion with them in this book.) 

She also writes movingly about the inferiority complex that dogged Fadiman père’s life, which stemmed from growing up poor and Jewish in Brooklyn. There’s a sequence when Fadiman fille is writing magazine article about père and he asks her not to mention that he’s Jewish. If he were missing both legs, he argues, he wouldn’t want her to write about that either. 

And I very much enjoyed the book’s discussion of wine and wine connoisseurship, not least because I, like Anne Fadiman, have always liked the idea of wine without being able to get into wine itself (although wine is not a family legacy so I was not nearly so heavily invested in the idea of one day learning to like it.) The discussion of the biology of taste is fascinating, as well as the meaning that we invest in certain tastes, and - in the context of her father’s wine cellar - the fact that there are some legacies that you can’t pass on. 

It’s not a thick book but there’s quite a bit in it. Highly recommended, particularly for people who like memoirs.
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A very well written interesting looking into Fadiman;s life as a father, book critic and author, and wine lover. Fadiman's life is compelling, and his daughter does it justice. Great for lovers of wine, and fans of memoirs.
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3.5 stars.  So I enjoy books (obviously), authors Anne and Clifton Fadiman and wine so I should have loved this memoir but by the end I was sort of tired of hearing about Clifton's obsession and Anne's ambivalence with wine.  Clifton Fadiman was a famous book critic who wrote the New Lifetime Reading Plan which sits on my night stand.  Anne is also a well known author who writes books about reading.  Some chapters of this book were great but I skimmed through those which seemed as if they just listed every wine of quality.  Overall, if you are a wine connoisseur you might find this short memoir completely compelling.  If not, then plan to skip around to the more biographical parts.  I received a digital ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review .
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An interesting and rather compelling biography of Fadiman’s late father, a prolific book critic, and accomplished man.  Her writing is fantastic; she never fails to be witty and charming, and there is a marvellous balance struck here.  The Wine Lover’s Daughter is a compelling memoir, but I felt that it lacked a little of the magic of her essays about books.
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For anyone interested in wines or the relationships between fathers and daughters, this is a most engaging memoir.  In addition, the glimpse into the lives of a celebrity family headed by such a literary luminary as Clifton Fadiman is fascinating.  The lifestyle of a certain social segment (think New Yorker contributors and intellectuals of means in the 50's and 60's) is portrayed with clear eyes and affection by Anne Fadiman.  Understanding her father's humble background and its influence on the man he became adds poignancy to Fadiman's recollections, and it is indeed refreshing to read of a family whose members liked each other and apparently hid no dark secrets.  At times the information about wines became quite technical, which might not appeal to all readers, but there was a lot to be learned about wine collecting and appreciation
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The Wine Lover's Daughter is an interesting read - chronicling the life of Clifton Fadiman's life through his daughter's eyes.  I found certain aspects of his life to be quite fascinating, and didn't realize how his work had actually been part of my life in various forms.  As a wine lover, I expected to enjoy and understand all of the wine talked about, but was surprised that I learned quite a bit about French wine through the reading process.  I wasn't drawn into the book as I have other memoirs, but I think that is in part due to my age or lack of knowledge of some of the people Fadiman references in the book.  While not all was lost on me, lists of important figures of which only a few names were familiar made certain chapters less than interesting.  I found myself skimming over sections that I would assume had a greater meaning if you knew all of the names.  Overall, a good and interesting read.
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