Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Author: Joanne Harris
ISBN # 0552998486
Publisher: Black Swan
1st Published: 1999
320 pages

When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock - especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial. War is declared as the priest denounces the newcomer’s wares as the ultimate sin.

Suddenly Vianne’s shop-cum-café means that there is somewhere for secrets to be whispered, grievances to be aired, dreams to be tested. But Vianne’s plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community in a conflict that escalates into a ‘Church not Chocolate’ battle. As mouths water in anticipation, can the solemnity of the Church compare with the Pagan passion of a chocolate éclair?

Chocolat is every bit as sumptuous as its title suggests – a deliciously wicked concoction of indulgence, fun, flirtation and temptation between the covers! The characters are completely believable, even in the extremes of their beliefs and actions, and the conflict between those on the side of the Church and those in favour of a more flavoursome life is electric; drawing the reader into the close-knit community to become a part of the action.

The arrival of the Travellers adds an extra element of tension as those who are more tolerant of more unusual lifestyles welcome them with open arms, whereas the more staid inhabitants try everything within their power to not only make them feel unwelcome, but to run them out of town. It’s through characters such as Vianne and Armande that the easy-going friendliness of strangers is portrayed and also through them, a joy of revelling in life’s little pleasures while they have the chance. The over-riding message throughout is that a little bit of what you fancy does you good and denying yourself love and pleasure completely can only lead to obsession.

A tantalising story that tempts you: Try me… Test me… Taste me… You’ll want to come back for more!

Rating: 9

(Chocolat was adapted for screen in a movie very faithful to the spirit of the book, starring Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche and Judi Dench.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a book I've never forgotten reading! Also, it is a book that's been made into a film that, apart from one change, in characterisation, was made into a film that is very true to the original story. A film that must have made Joanne Harris burst with pride.

5:02 pm  

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