Reading Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey
"But I belong to no-one"
"Except myself. Nor do you. Nor does anyone, really. You are lucky you speak this language. In theirs, I couldn’t say this. There are no words for it" (15)
I’m not sure what I can say to do this book justice. Beyond anything else, for me, is a book about language. One main character learns seven by the time of her death. It explores what you can you say, and what can you think about depending on your access to words. And so to it becomes about power and privilege, which she tackles with unusual skill. We follow women who travel various languages and cultures. In some there is the concept of consent and so there is the concept of rape, in others there is no concept of consent and so the characters muddle along creating consent from first principles, struggling to put their practices into their secret language. There is more to it than just language, there is abandonment and love, oppression and freedom. There are both same and opposite sex relationships, and various family groupings. The love between women features very strongly. I also feel she succeeds where a lot of writers fail, to really imagine alternate types of familial and sexual relationships.
Reading it is like learning a new language. Things are not clear at first, you struggle to get corners of meaning. What is this culture? Why do they do the things they do? It is sometimes startling, sometimes violent, sometimes stunning, sometimes cruel and there were moments for me when the book really succeeded, some passages that were just exquisite, and other places near the end that felt rushed or flat.
I want everyone to read it! I want to recommend it to everyone. It is so different though, regular trigger warnings are difficult to put on it. There is violence and sexual violence in this book, I think she handled it with unusual grace but this may not be a universal reaction.
Here read Jo Walton’s review.
It’s out of print fyi, but easily found at the library.