By Richard Thomas
Although there are more books being published about whisk(e)y now that ever before, few, if any, fall outside the non-fiction category. Whiskey drinking might figure prominently in modern popular fiction, but unless you count the reality TV series Moonshiners, making whiskey isn’t the main subject of the story. “The distillery novel?” I hear you ask, “What is that?”
That, I tell you, is what Canadian Daniel Marchildon has created in Water Of Life.
The protagonist, Elizabeth Legrand, is a doomed soul from the moment we meet her, which happens to be when she is attempting to stage a suicide that will look like a boat accident and drowning. She pulls back at the literal last minute, inspired to turn a legendary stash of some very, very old single malt into the capital and stock base to starting a whisky distillery.
From there, the story follows the dual plot format, where the story of the Scottish distilling family, the Fearmors, progresses from the Middle Ages into the whisky crash of the late 19th Century, whereupon it crosses the Atlantic and becomes the foundation for Legrand’s tale, ultimately dovetailing together when the modern Fearmors enter Legrand’s tale.
Water Of Life a tale that is part tragic, part infused with the romance of single malt whisky. It’s the latter that both serves as the main draw of the book and makes up the bulk of its substance. If there was one thing I thought was missing, it was more depth for the character of Legrand. Her actions are the culmination of the plot, but she is the kind of character who is complicated on the surface, with little real exploration of the why and how of who she is. That said, Marchildon has woven an entertaining stroll down Whisky Lane.