The compelling new Chocolat novel, published 20 years after Joanne’s Harris’s original bestseller
Vianne Rocher has finally settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has become her home. With Rosette, her “special child”, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.
But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy old village is once again thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence. Perhaps, even, a murder…
Vianne is settled and content in the village that was once so wary of her. She’s found her place and has become an integral part of the community. They understand her, and although many are still unsure of her ‘special’ child, Rosette, who doesn’t speak, but who manages to communicate in other ways, they’ve come to accept her as she’s part of who Vianne is. Rosette is happy to commune with nature, loves art and her imaginary friend, ‘Bam’, the monkey. She uses sign language when and if she chooses – and she’s selective about who she communicates with (don’t we all wish we could be a bit like that?) But don’t be fooled, silent waters run deep and she sees a lot more than people are aware of.
Narcisse the florist’s death brings upheaval though. He leaves a portion of land – his forest – to Rosette, his ‘Strawberry Thief’, with whom he had a warm, nurturing relationship, but his daughter Mimi is furious, convinced there must be something hidden in the woods that she’s determined should be hers.
And then a newcomer arrives to move into the old florist’s shop and it seems that the village has not moved on as much as we thought. They are as wary and apprehensive of her as they were when Vianne herself arrived! Clearly they still don’t take lightly to newcomers. But very soon, she manages to weave a magical spell on the inhabitants of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes leaving Vianne concerned that she might lose her own hard-earned standing in what has come to be her haven.
This is a book you need to read for yourself without relying on a reviewer to tell you too much about the story or the plot. You need to immerse yourself in it. And when you finally come up for air, you’ll understand.
Joanne Harris’s writing is whimsical and enchanting, drawing the reader in until you’re reading in an almost trance-like state. She’s a master storyteller, lulling you into the environment she’s created so that you can almost see the surroundings and taste what she’s describing.
Her characters are all solid. They seem to possess an innate wisdom – even the ones we’re very obviously not supposed to like! Harris draws from legend and lore to lend enhancement to every single facet of her narrative.
This is a monumental 5-star read that I feel deserves to become a classic, just like it’s predecessor, Chocolat.
About the author:
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.
Thank you so much to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me along for yet another fabulous blog tour! We’re about a week into the tour so take a look at what other lovely bloggers are saying about this beautiful book …