• Eight Hundred Grapes

  • A Novel
  • By: Laura Dave
  • Narrated by: Joy Osmanski
  • Length: 8 hrs and 6 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (1,305 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

What if your beloved fiancé, he of the crinkly smile and the irresistible British accent, had kept a life-changing secret from you? And what if, just a week before your dream wedding, you discovered it?

When these questions become realities for bride-to-be Georgia Ford, she does the only thing that seems to make sense. She runs. She hops in her car and drives through the night, from Los Angeles to Sonoma, to her safe haven, to her messy and loving family and their acclaimed family winery. Georgia craves the company of those who know her best and whom she truly knows. And on the eve of the harvest, Georgia knows she'll find solace - and distraction - in familiar rituals. But when Georgia arrives home, nothing is at all familiar. Her parents, her brothers, the family business are all unrecognizable. It seems her fiancé isn't the only one who's been keeping secrets. And, much to Georgia's dismay, it seems likely that this harvest may be the family's last.

Best-selling author Laura Dave has been dubbed "a wry observer of modern love" (USA Today), a "decadent storyteller" (Marie Claire), and "compulsively readable" (Woman's Day). Set in the lush backdrop of Sonoma's wine country, Eight Hundred Grapes is a heartbreaking, funny, and deeply evocative novel about love, marriage, family, wine, and the treacherous terrain in which they all intersect.

©2015 Laura Dave. All rights reserved. (P)2015 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Joy Osmanski's feisty delivery is just right for Georgia, the 30-year-old lawyer who discovers that her too-good-to-be-true fiancé is too good to be true.... Whether recounting flashbacks or dealing with present-day crises, Osmanski's performance is winning." ( AudioFile)

What listeners say about Eight Hundred Grapes

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Mindless Summer Entertainment with a Fatal Flaw

Is there anything you would change about this book?

It doesn't take long after the initial setup to realize how this book is going to end. Still, the setting (a vineyard) and a variety of subplots keep it interesting. Unfortunately, the main subplot--the main character's fiancé has a secret; she must figure out whether to forgive him and go on with their wedding--is inherently flawed. Why? The guy is totally unlikeable. It's hard to be invested in the main character's final decision because the reader honestly does not care what happens to this guy. Instead of being an intriguing "what will she choose?" the reader just becomes annoyed at her inability to do so--making the "big reveal" at the end far more of a whimper than a bang.

How could the performance have been better?

I have never heard such a poor British accent in my life. Did the narrator not read the book beforehand? There is also an atrocious Southern belle in here whose voice was remarkably grating. Maybe I would have gotten a better feel for the fiancé had he not been voiced so poorly.

9 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Mediocre at Best

My 2016 reading list is not off to a good start!

This book sounded promising a first: a woman learns about her fiancé’s bomb-shell secret just days before her wedding… juicy!

But then that’s it. She goes home to her boring family and slowly learns all their relationship secrets; basically EVERYONE is falling apart.

IT WAS SO BORING! Nothing really happens and her family is so uninteresting I didn’t care a jot for any of their dilemmas.

The characters were all very two-dimensional, there was no real plot, nothing to really think about, no big insights…

I wish I hadn’t bothered – it was mediocre at best.

4 people found this helpful

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Great Moments, and a Whole lot of Swill

So this review is a tricky one. And it’s full of spoilers, so don’t read if you don’t want to know.

At the outset, I ask myself why, why I continue to read through Laura Dave’s works. I have no good answer. I don’t particularly like her style (lots of sentence fragments, lots of generic similes, many repetitive phrases or even repetitive passages, and so many cop outs that first-person POV allows – e.g. ‘I wish I could explain how…’, a phrase Dave is particularly fond of). I’m not really a ‘chicklit’ reader in general, preferring to dabble about once a year, usually when the weather turns warm. 3) I’ve now read three of her books, and I have yet to be floored by any of them.

And yet, for some indefinable reason, I keep looking. There’s something I almost like in the way she writes characters; something I almost see in each book. And that perhaps misplaced optimism has kept me searching for The One, as each of her main characters appear to be fumbling their way toward the same. Plus, I’ve been consuming these by audiobook – and, at only about 7 hours apiece, they’re easy reads to play in the background on a run, at the shops or doing the washing up.

800 Grapes was the third Dave book I read, and the third I am reviewing. I began with her latest release – The Last Thing He Told Me – which is by far the superior of the three (I rated it a solid 3.5 stars, but comparatively speaking it might as well be a 5). I then went back to her debut, London Is the Best City in America, which I did not enjoy.

800 Grapes was not as bad as London, but it suffers from many of the same fatal flaws. The protagonist, Georgia, is self-righteous, somewhat bland, very immature and often downright annoying – only a slight improvement on Emmy from London. (The main reason The Last Thing is so vastly superior, incidentally, is the comparative strength and stomachability of its protagonist). Still, Georgia is a brat.

800 Days’ supporting cast is okay – a little two-dimensional, and very obviously B-plot support for Georgia’s thinly-veiled self-reflection. Dave relies mainly on telling, but rarely showing, their flaws and their attributes. Halfway through, I found myself mixing up the names of the semi-love-interest and the mother’s side piece (whose name I have now forgotten entirely). She reuses not only plot devices but also descriptions directly from her first book. Actually, the entire opening paragraph of this book can be found partway through London, with changes so subtle they aren’t even true ‘filed-off serial numbers’.

Georgia’s love story is underwhelming. I cared more about the drama between her brothers and their shared love, and perhaps even more about her parents’ seemingly dissolving relationship, than I did about Georgia’s fate. And that was with the choppy flashbacks that flesh out how mum and dad met (which actually worked well making me sympathise with both their characters, despite their rough integration). I would have preferred she write their book, rather than Georgia’s. At least, I thought I did – until about halfway through the book we learn that her mother is really just as shallow and self-centred as Georgia seems to be. Then I just feel bad for her father, in the same way I feel bad for Ben (see below).

And then, there’s Ben. The fiancé that screwed up, and landed Georgia in a wedding dress in a bar nine hours from her seamstress. I sympathised with Ben. Even when, in stark contrast to the character she had established for him, Dave started giving him dialogue that was so contrived to make you hate him. Perhaps this was meant to show that Georgia never really saw the true Ben (though this is odd, since all they did was talk, apparently, for the majority of their relationship). What it actually seemed to show, in my opinion, was the writer changing her mind partway through her own story, or else realising she had failed to develop the character in a way that would support her ultimate conclusion.

And here’s the thing. Ben does have a child with another woman – a child he has only just found out about. And I don’t think it’s even that odd (or that unforgivable) that when he discovers the child’s existence, he goes to London to see her, and while there he tries to see whether there’s a world in which he could be happy there – could be a family with the child of his mother and his daughter. Is it painful and awful for everyone involved? Yes. Is it understandable? Yes.

Yes, Ben screwed up. So did Georgia. Furious about his lack of communication, she runs without any attempt at it. He attempts to reach her multiple times, she ignores it. Then he shows up and suggest they don’t talk about it – since she clearly has made no attempt to do so (this is the contrived dialogue, see above). She makes clear she is not happy with this situation – and so he makes multiple additional attempts to talk. But he variously falls asleep waiting for her to come back (when she’s immeasurably late), nearly gets punched out by her brothers in their fight over one’s wife who loves the other one, and generally gets rather the short end of the stick. Then he makes clear he will give up everything – and anything – she needs, in order to fix things. He screwed up, big time. But then he spends everything he has trying to fix it. The whole thing is a mess, and messily conveyed. And rather than deal with it, Georgia spends the majority of the book telling off everyone else for their own messy love lives.

Georgia wants happiness with Ben, but no matter what she says aloud and how self-righteous she gets about it, she really doesn’t make any attempt to try and understand the situation with Ben and his daughter. She ostensibly tries – in the final act of the book – to work things out; but what she really does is look for more sins that might push him into ‘unforgivable’ territory, might justify the decision to leave him. What she really wants is for Ben to walk away, or for Michelle and Maddie to disappear from her life forever. And it’s Jacob’s fiancé, Lee, who finally calls her out on her bullshit and her fake, LA-influenced conniving ways. Lee, who is presented from the start as a total flake, seems to be the only one who actually knows who she really is.

Then, there’s Jacob. Semi-love-interest from the first. Taken, by another clearly misfit match, and conveniently also the victim of a botched wedding (though still with the perpetrator). Jacob is somehow incredibly gentlemanly for two thirds of the book, even though Georgia gives him nothing but snark and anger from the off. And then Jacob calls her a crazy woman (which she kind of is, at the time), emotionally unstable (again, sort of true, but still misogynistic), and panicked. Of course, this is in the same conversation where Georgia learns he has separated from the long-time girlfriend. We see they are end game, also from the off. And other than the trite corporate-man-with-the-heart-of-gold and enemies-turned-lovers tropes, there isn’t much to the unfurling of this romance. Dave introduces additional obstacles to the Ben and Georgia love story – though anyone can see she’s already set out to doom them – just in time for Jacob to come round from his dickishness and assure our protagonist that she’s really more beautiful and desirable than the movie star and baby momma she inevitably compares herself to. Just in time for his seriously-underutilised fiancé Lee to call out Georgia on her crap and simultaneously give them her blessing (with another ‘telling without showing’ moment, where she assures us that Jacob is a ‘really good guy’, even though Dave has shown us he’s as prone to lecturing a woman for her emotional outbursts as he is to offer her liquorice).

By the final round in this book that teems with dramatic family and irritable characters, I am pretty much done with everyone. But then the big party scene – Dan’s last harvest party – is actually fairly well-written, in contrast with much of this book. Everyone’s a mess. Georgia’s unspoken feelings toward her semi-antagonist Jacob have been noticed by Lee, and perhaps by Georgia (even though they are still at odds over the sale of her father’s vineyard, which she’s now escalated to court). Jacob has told her she’s more beautiful than the movie star. Lee wants to move out of Sonoma, and seems apathetic as to whether Jacob accompanies her. Bobby is trying to decide how to move forward and keeping an icy chill toward his wife, who he now knows is in love with his twin brother. Said twin brother, Finn, has decided to move to New York and away from the drama with Margaret. Michelle is there, with her lovely daughter, drawing a fair amount of attention and making cookie-cutter mean girl trouble. Dan – poor, desperate, sad Dan – is prepared to give up everything to save his marriage, even though it already seems lost. Jen is cruel as she dangles her new beau in front of Dan, and yet also dances with Dan like she might reconsider (by this point, in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve lost any sympathy for Jen, even though it’s been clear for some time now that perhaps Dan has a serious medical condition – probably fatal – that Georgia is not completely aware of, and which is almost certainly pushing Jen toward her ‘next step’). And Henry’s there too, though everyone kind of ignores him.

And then, the wine cottage catches on fire. And the vineyard might burn down… until that rainstorm Jacob so aptly predicted earlier in the story arrives. The water spares the vineyard, but nearly ruins the grapes that are still on the vine – until this messy, ridiculous family all steps in to save them. It’s then, of course, that Dan collapses. And we learn that he’s been having multiple heart attacks in the past few years, and the doctor is the one who has told Dan that he has to slow down, or he risks his life. And Jen finally stops being an arse, and Georgia finally – well no, Georgia doesn’t really stop being a brat. But she’s kerbed, slightly, by the reality that her father is no longer the strong, young man he once was, and her mother’s behaviour has been driven by fear, and all of it weighs on her to realise that she should leave her current fiancé and chase the corporate jerk with misogynistic tendencies who, conveniently, has left a care package for her dad to show how much of a non-jerk he is.

And so, we get the ending we anticipated from the moment Jacob offered some liquorice. Or, perhaps, from the moment Georgia wore her dirty wedding dress into the bar. She gives up flashy LA for the winery she’s apparently always wanted, with the guy she was destined to be with rather than the one she spent the past five years with, Jen and Dan get back together and head off on the cruise of the world that feels more like a final goodbye, and the brothers make up. It’s an ending that – despite how much it failed to surprise me – I couldn’t totally hate.

My last big gripe is with the narrator. And this isn’t Dave’s fault, I suppose, but since this is an audiobook review…

This narrator’s attempt to act British makes Dick Van Dyke’s efforts look Oscar worthy. And really, when you’re going to make one of your main characters and his secret daughter British (not to mention his famous ex-girlfriend), you might want to ensure whoever’s doing your recording can actually manage something that doesn’t sound like a southern American with slightly above average enunciation.

Anyway, this is a bit of a rant. The information about the winery and vineyard lifestyle was very interesting and, as far as my curious Wikipedia deep dives have shown, pretty accurate. I love wine, and I was predisposed to enjoy any discussion thereof. I enjoyed the last act most, when the story finally seemed to get a little deeper, and things finally came to a head. But for a plot-light book that is clearly meant to be heavy on character development, the characters are a bit wooden, a bit two-dimensional, and fall a few points short of a decent red.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Just okay

I ordinarily really enjoy reading Laura Dave's books. This one, however, was a bit tedious. An average read.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Meh.

The narration makes all the men sound so unpleasant, especially Ben. The story isn't exactly predictable but full of cliches and the narrator changes her mind endlessly. I didn't hate it but I wouldn't recommend it.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Don't waste a credit

I enjoy light, fluffy romances, and this looked to be an interesting one. However, from the first chapter I could tell that, unless the main character had a major change in attitude, I wasn't going to like her. Unfortunately, she never changed, and I hated her through the whole book.
Worse is the absolutely predictable plot. I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, the writer wouldn't take the obvious route, but she did. In fact, she really went out of her way to make it happen. There are so many other ways this novel could have ended that would have felt much more real, but that just doesn't happen.
The one positive thing I can say about this book is that the narrator gives it her best, and I really like her. She's probably the only thing that helped me keep on going. Kudos to her for putting in a fine performance for a book that even she must have known was terrible.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Just OK

It was alright but a little boring.The male voices were annoying. I was glad it was pretty short. The repetition of the phrase, "he shook his head" or "she shook her head" every few sentences got to be almost comical. I enjoyed the story of the parents more than the rest of it.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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interesting

got the concept and the romance. couldn't get over the horrible job of the "male" voices". acted out by performer.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Ho-Hum

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The characters were a bit boring and seemed to be moaning, I just could not connect

What could Laura Dave have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

This is the same story, it has been done before and was not something new or fresh.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Disappointed

What did you like best about Eight Hundred Grapes? What did you like least?

The story was so predictable. Everyone in this family had relationship issues.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Still searching for a really good sink your teeth in story.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Joy Osmanski?

Anyone.

What would have made this romance irresistible?

Nothing

Any additional comments?

The story never had any happiness or good things happen to the characters. Very slow and nothing note worthy or rich in the story line. The narrator does a bad job of having a male voice that is believable. One of the characters has a terrible Bristih accent.

2 people found this helpful