July 12, 2012

Chocolat - Joanne Harris

My second completed read for our Paris in July 2012 event was a re-read of a much loved novel for me, Chocolat by Joanne Harris.
I remember reading this book when it was first released and what a fuss it created in the reading world - it was one of those books that people asked you if you had read and that you passed on to others once you had read it yourself. It really has a winning combination, chocolate, France, travel, wanderlust, magic, love and of course, more chocolate! Joanne Harris has written a lovely piece on her website about her influences in writing the book.
Chocolat is the story of Vianne Rocher, a young woman recently arrived in the small French village of Lansquent with her six year old daughter, Anouk. Vianne and Anouk are travellers through life, rarely settling in one place for very long but in Lansquent Vianne sees the opportunity to try and create a home for herself and her daughter and so they settle in an old bakery with Vianne turning the shop into the La Celeste Paraline Chocolaterie Artisanale - a decadent chocolate shop filled with Vianne's hand made creations.
From the very beginning it it clear that Chocolat is a book for all the senses;

We came on the wind of the carnival. A warm wind for February, laden with the hot greasy scents of frying pancakes and sausages and powdery-sweet waffles cooked on the hotplate right there by the roadside, with the confetti sleeting down collars and cuffs and rolling in the gutters like an idiot antidote to winter.

It is Harris' sensual and evocative writing that really makes Chocolat such a beautiful book for me - I really feel as though I have been transported to this French village and am sitting in the Chocolaterie drinking a rich, creamy hot chocolate with a truffle on the side...
Of course Vianne's dramatic entrance to the community of Lansquent and her establishing of a chocolate shop in the middle of lent does not go unnoticed. The local priest, Reynaud, takes particular offence to Vianne and Anouk's arrival and sets out to damage her reputation and turn the community away from their lusts for her chocolate and friendly company.
Chocolat is still as beautiful and enriching to me as the first time I read it, a book that takes the reader to France and the world of magic and chocolate without being unreal or completely escapist.


Nan said...

I also read this when it was new, and so loved it. I also loved the film, though it was quite different.
Thanks for offering Paris in July. It is like a little vacation without leaving home.

Lorraine S. said...

Loved the book and the film of Choc. Just watched Julie and Julia again on DVD. I read My Life in France a few years before the movie, and thought Julia Child's book was absolutely delightful. What a loving couple. Would have liked the movie better with just the Julia and Paul Child story. Happy Bastille Day.

Caroline said...

I've seen the movie more than once and always thought I need to let time pass before picking up the book.
I think I've finally started to forget the film and could read the book.
It sounds lovely.

Jeanie said...

Hi, Karen -- I just found this on the used shelf. Have always loved the movie and looking forward to reading it -- especially after reading your take!

Christine Harding said...

Love the book each time I read it, but hated the film (even with Johnny Depp) because it is not like the book - it doesn't capture the feel of the novel, and the characters were not as I imagined them.

Arti said...

Thanks for a delightful review, and the link to Joanne Harris's website. It's up close and personal, let's you see the person behind the book. Have you seen the movie adaptation? Just curious to know what you think of it.

Paulita said...

Oh, it's good to know that you still loved it. Sometimes, I'm afraid to return to it because it might disappoint. Have you read Harris' other books -- like Five Quarter of the Orange, set on the banks of the Loire?

Kim said...

I have had this book sitting in my TBR pile for a while now and this review just made me go and pick it up.
Thank you Karen. The cover has been opened as we speak!

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A-Mao said...

I have read Joanne Harris' food trilogy, and Five Quarters of Orange is the best.