Friday, 6 February 2009
This book was a mad rush to the finish, having been on the go for about a fortnight now. In fact I scoffed my dinner down and said "sorry, I'm off back to my book" and left everyone else sat at the table. I have read several other Joanne Harris but I have not read 'Chocolat', for which this is a sequel. Vianne and Anouk have ended up in Paris (with the addition of little Rosette), leading a new life in another chocolaterie and hiding from the world, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. But a wild woman, in the shape of Zozie, invades their quiet life and brings chaos and disruption to their cosy family unit. We are pretty fond of the film of Chocolat, the presence of Johnny Depp being a deciding factor, but it plainly does not do justice to the book. The magical/occult theme in the background of the film is obviously much more dominant in the book and it continues on through to the Lollipop Shoes. We learn, through Zozie's intrusion, much more about Vianne's history, and watch in fascination as Zozie inveigles herself into everyone's affections, weaving spells over every aspect of their lives and disrupting the ordinariness that Vianne has so carefully cultivated. While Anouk struggles to make friends at school and Vianne gets engaged to a nice solid man, Rosette plays quietly on the floor observing everything while saying nothing. And then Roux turns up again, and the old relationships threaten to upset the new ones. The first two third of the book slowly establish the characters and relationships, then you find yourself sliding headlong into an exhilarating climax. In essence the book is about belonging and fitting in, and being true to yourself. It is heartwarming and life affirming. Sometimes you need to read such a book.