Son of an Irish father and a French mother, Maurice George O’Shea was a famous Australian winemaker. Educated in France, he was also a man of passion, a romantic. In the cultured and elegant Miss Marcia Fuller, an accomplished pianist, he found his enduring sweetheart.
Theirs would be a many-faceted and often stormy romance, confronted by religious differences and tested by life’s vicissitudes. But their greatest challenge lay in Maurice’s other consuming passion – making fine wines. He could not tear himself away from his beloved Hunter Valley vineyard. Marcia, every inch a city girl, was appalled by the primitive living conditions of the struggling vigneron.
The Vintner’s Letters is based on their true story as recounted by Simone Bryce, their daughter, and on the letters written by Maurice to Marcia during their courtship.
This year’s first guest for our An Audience with program, Peter McAra, delivered a wonderfully entertaining and informative talk last Wednesday night at Dapto Library, discussing his novel The Vintner’s Letters.
Reading a novel based on real people and their lives can be an engaging thing. It is so easy to imagine their life, empathize with the characters, understand their difficulties and feel good about their pleasures. This is exactly what McAra has given us in his novel.
Firstly he explained how he came to write Vintner’s Letters (an interesting story in itself) then the process of bringing these two people to life and why the story was released as a novel and not a biography.
Maurice O’Shea provided the foundation for this story with his letters to Marcie over the years of their courtship. Then, with the help of their daughter Simone Bryce, Peter built an authentic, yet compelling story of a man swept up in his dreams of creating superior wine and balancing this with his love for a young woman, all during a time when transport and communication was far from as easy as it is today.
The story has all the vital ingredients of a great novel … romance, relationships, family dynamics and as Peter explained, that crucial ingredient for a good story, conflict!
Author discussions provide great insight into the artistic process of writing a book and Peter gave us many wonderful stories relating to his research and method of crafting creative non-fiction. For those of us who had already read The Vintner’s Letters, we came away feeling more informed and intimate with, not only the characters, but with the writing process in general … something always welcomed by avid readers.
And for those who had not yet read the book? It has now moved to the top of their reading list!