Book Reviews / Books

Review: Chocolat – Joanne Harris

01.26.12

Chocolat

Most of my close friends, and indeed some of my not-so-close acquaintances, will, at some point, have been a victim of my Joanne Harris campaign. In previous posts I’ve touched upon my tendency as a reader to demolish entire back catalogues of writers whose work I enjoy, and Joanne Harris is certainly no objection to the rule.

I still remember where I was when I first bought perhaps Harris’s most acclaimed novel. Having been given some HMV vouchers for Christmas, I made my way to the far right corner of the store where they stocked a small selection of books. Enticed by the front cover – this particular one bore a picture of Johnny Depp – there was also a quote from the Literary Review underneath the blurb: ‘Is this the best book ever written?’ it asked; and so I made a hasty purchase, adding to my ever-growing pile of tomes to read.

Chocolat is set in a fictional French village in Southern France, which immediately lends and atmospheric and evocative air to the book. It tells the story of Vianne Rocher and her six-year-old daughter Anouk, who, upon arriving in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes set up a Chocolaterie. It being the beginning of Lent, such is greeted with heavy disapproval by the local priest, who sees it as a provocative move. While initially much of the village treated Vianne with a level of polite hostility, she soon wins them round with her winning combination of charm and decadent delights.

A simply delicious tale, Chocolat appeals to all the senses as Harris’s descriptive style of writing brings alive an insular French village from a bygone era. Fusing romance, religion, temptation and sin, this magical novel is beautifully written and truly deserves its accolade as one of the best books ever written.

About Chocolat

A timeless novel of a straitlaced village’s awakening to joy and sensuality – every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere.

Illuminating Peter Mayle’s South of France with a touch of Laura Esquivel’s magic realism, Chocolat is a timeless novel of a straitlaced village’s awakening to joy and sensuality. In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne’s uncanny perception of its buyer’s private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival.

Chocolat’s every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It’s a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.

About Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French author, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. She has also written a Dr Who novella for the BBC, has scripted guest episodes for the game Zombies, Run!, and is currently engaged in a number of musical theatre projects as well as developing an original drama for television.

In 2000, her 1999 novel Chocolat was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.

Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion’. She also spends too much time on Twitter; plays flute and bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16; and works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire.

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