Review: Passing Clouds ~ A winemaker’s journey


Passing Clouds by Graeme Leith

3 stars

Read from 1 – 4th July, 2020

Synopsis: Graeme Leith-electrician, Italophile and jack of all trades-joined Melbourne’s theatre collective at Carlton’s famously innovative Pram Factory theatre and said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was: Graeme Blundell, Jack Hibberd, Max Gillies and many others produced over 140 new Australian plays in ten years.

Like many of his generation, Graeme left suburban Australia in the 1950s, bound for London and Europe. After a stint in Britain’s atomic weapons industry he rode his Lambretta scooter to Perugia in Italy, where he had his first taste of ‘ethereal’ wine and fell in love.

But Graeme had also fallen for the idea of making wine, and in the mid-1970s he and his partner Sue Mackinnon established Passing Clouds, a vineyard in Victoria’s Spa Country that produced award-winning wines from the beginning.

Then tragedy struck. In 1984 Graeme’s beautiful and talented daughter Ondine and her boyfriend David vanished en route to the South Coast of New South Wales. Ten days later their ute was found in Kings Cross, where it had been abandoned by their killers.

Heartfelt and heartbreaking, humorous and hilarious, Passing Clouds tells of a life fully lived-a life embracing the experience of fatherhood, of triumph and disaster, of joy and tragedy, of ingenuity and sheer hard work and, above all, an unquenchable optimism.

Bookish Things: 328 pages. This cover is different to the one I have as I got an uncorrected proof copy from Allen & Unwin.

Where to buy: On Amazon on kindle for $20.39.

My Review: 

So first up, I won this book back in the day when Goodreads was allowing international giveaways. It’s taken me about 3years to get to this, because I took a hiatus in reading and reviewing.

Now onto the book.

Graeme’s writing style is easy to read and follow even though the memories tended to twist and intertwine and didn’t always stay linear time-wise.

I found his personal history to be dramatically more interesting than the winemaking portions of the book and wished there was more history and less winery and wine making information on multiple occasions.

For me, the wine-related portion of the book started interesting enough, but soon got overly complicated and dragged the speed of the story to snail pace. Luckily they were broken up across the book, but I think still too heavy handed all the same.

I was particularly intrigued by some of the personal events in Graeme’s life, most notably around his daughter Ondine. Terrible though it was, the story thread caught my attention and I did some further reading and research on it. Learning some interesting Australian history.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the snippets of history about the dogs of Passing Clouds.

If you are looking for an Aussie book, a book about a varied and interesting personal history, or a lot of information about wine making, this could be the book for you. I think I’d prefer to drink the wine than read about making it.

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