Nose: A Novel - James Conaway

I won a copy through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.




I’m giving this book two stars because despite good elements I didn’t particularly enjoy it, even though those elements are usually what I like. There’s hardly anything particularly wrong or irritating but I find it slow and uncompelling.

My big problem was indifference. Apparently it’s simply not my kind of book. I think this will be different for people who are more into wine, Napa Valley and those who relate more with the characters.

I originally entered to win Nose because the blurb certainly seemed interesting and I wanted to explore an area I hadn’t before. The family saga mystery drama intrigued me. I admittedly went in knowing nothing about wine and unfortunately my only tasting experience was with a cheap port that I didn’t like.

Nose is very informative in all things wine - from the making, the environment, the marketing, and the sensations. It wasn’t hard to follow or understand. It gave me a different perspective and appreciation for wine. The details didn’t bog me down and it was very interesting. This is one of the best parts of the book.




Detailed and informative about wine yet very approachable. I’m a total n00b on the subject and was able to understand it and found it fascinating

Figured out the mystery behind the bottle quick enough

Second half ramps up and I enjoyed watching the characters scramble to deal with the consequences

Thought the first half was too slow

Descriptive writing, which mostly worked

The writing was sometimes a miss—my eyes just drifted off the page as sentences rambled on

Characters are very dynamic, interesting and flawed people

Didn’t connect or care about the characters

Ending was appropriate, caused me to smirk, and I can’t see it ending any other way

Didn’t feel the impact of the ending, causing me to just shrug it off


Wanted more of the promised drama, which was sparse at first until the second half


The Characters

This is where the big disconnect happens for me. The characters aren’t bad. They are realistic, flawed, and dynamic. I didn’t find them unlikable or unpleasant to read about. But I didn’t connect with them and couldn't care about what happens to them.

I couldn’t even rise to hating the antagonists. Sure, there were moments I disagreed with (I think Sarah was just going through grief and her breakdown wasn’t about being in love, though I saw the attraction) and some moments where I didn’t like them (particularly the antagonists), but overall they were...fine. Wine is probably the best character but I don't have a connection with that either.


The Writing

Nose is written in a very descriptive with long sentences full of details. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it droned on and broke immersion. It’s flowery but fits the tone, perspectives and character narration so it’s not excessive to the point of being purple prose. (I don’t think...) I was torn between appreciating the slow, ponderous writing (mostly) and itching for the story to finally go somewhere.


The Plot


I didn’t personally find it fast paced like the blurb said. The first part is all about setup and build up, which I’m usually all for but, again, this didn’t win out for Nose. It was just too slow and I didn't have a reason to continue besides being stubborn. Figuring out the big mystery in that section before the characters certainly didn't help matters.

The second act's turn of events was much better. I enjoyed watching people struggle to deal with the aftermath. It also fulfilled the family drama promise and that's part I didn't figure out before its reveal.

The ending felt circular and not very satisfying. I smirked but that's it. The main conflict is resolved and it’s realistic. I’d probably be disappointed if it did the “sappy and ecstatic” ending. Well, I am already but at least, it makes sense and I can't gripe about it. I simply didn't like it.

Once we have the whole scope of things, the character’s internal meanderings finally start having an effect on the story. Unfortunately, it's harder to enjoy a character driven novel when you can't be bothered to care about the characters. It leaves a lot to be desired, which holds true for every part of Nose, sadly.



Okay 2 stars


Full of pros and cons but in the end, I couldn't enjoy it.


Recommended for:

wine lovers, those interested in wine or Napa Valley, or if you want a character-driven mystery novel.