Author: Joanne Harris
My Edition Published by Black Swan, 2007 – Original by Doubleday, 1999
We came on the wind of the carnival.
When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud denounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self denial.
As passions flare and the conflict escalates, the whole community takes sides. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the sinful pleasure of a chocolate truffle?
The story starts out as Vianne and her daughter Anouk arrive into Lansquenet – “We came on the wind of the carnival” and decide to stay. She feels she can do some good here. After she opens a chocolate shop, she starts to befriend people in the town and helps to start to bridge the gap between some of the transient gypsies and the somewhat intolerant priest and a few of his more loyal followers. Over 2 months, she starts to encourage the townspeople to live their lives more outside of the church rules, and open themselves more against rigid intolerances.
As Easter approaches – through Lent – Vianne tempts the townspeople with her decadent chocolates. She knows everyone’s favourites! She and Anouk decide to plan a chocolate festival – Easter eggs and chocolate galore! However, Father Reynaud doesn’t like this and feels it is a personal attack on himself and his religion.
I read this as part of my book club. I enjoyed the whimsical nature of this book. I found it quite easy to read, it was well written and the story flows nicely. I like that Harris writes this book from both sides – the majority of the book is written from Vianne’s perspective, but there are also chapters interspersed from the priest – Francis Reynaud.
There is something a little bit magical about this book. First of all, why it’s taken me this long to actually read, I don’t know. A book all about chocolate? Right up my alley! And I liked that she uses the chocolate to break down the barriers, to draw people out of themselves and socialise.
But I also liked the honesty of the book. Armande is a character who likes Vianne from the start – relates to her. Her relationship with her daughter, and grandson explores a little about family issues and remaining true to yourself. She befriends the gypsies – Roux, Blanche & Zezette.
We didn’t really have too much to say about this one, we all enjoyed it. Found it easy to read, well written, a nice story. I do want to read the next instalment, too – “The Lollipop Shoes”.
Have you read them? What did you think?
Next Book Club book is “Past The Shallows” by Favel Parrett. Have a read and tell me what you think!