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Getting through this one was painful. The author wastes pages on ecstatic inventories of the excesses of the Napa "plutocrats" and "decamillionaries." Then he wastes more pages on long not-quite-believable quotes from all the "bohemians" fighting urban sprawl in Sonoma (does anyone really talk in such long, fully-formed monologues?). And in the end, I'm not sure what you end up with. There were no really meaningful insights into that classic struggle to control growth without impeding progress.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I have long been fascinated by the part of California depicted in this book, but there was something mechanical and obvious about the writing of this book itself. Maybe it would have been better if the writer had simply picked one valley, rather than try for the Dickens parallel. A book that focuses on a small part of California needs to be quite special to justify the reader's investing time in that area of micro-knowlege. The author's book on Steve Jobs beats this by a long ways.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
The literary version of 'Mondovino'. Except that Monsieur Mondavi is a bit of a hero in the author's eyes, whereas in Mondovino he is definitely a villain! However, Mondovino is all about the gritty local French winemaker fighting off globalisation in the form of the Mondavi family and in 'Two Valleys' it's a bit more domestic, with the Somona residents taking the part of the laid-back locals, if not yokels, competing with the super-rich neighbours in the next door valley, Napa. It bears comparison with the competition existing between adjacent Welsh valleys many years back, but then there was always rugby to act as a leveller. Here the competition is based on conspicuous consumption. But a fascinating listen all the same with many amusing character portraits, and if the reader slowed the pace just a bit, al la the laconic Bryson, it would have been even better.
PS: For those outside the U.S. of A, the Compass Guide to the 'Wine Country' (California's Napa and Sonoma), fleshing out the text, makes a great bonus.