Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I think this is an intriguing novel because of the many different levels that it works on. I see it as a fairytale for adults. Certainly, there are the usual qualities: a gutsy and resiliant heroine, a 'baddy' who gets his comeuppance, a love affair, and a magical element which is mainly played out through sensual descriptions of the main character (Vianne)'s chocolate shop. There's an ominous Handsel and Gretal element going on, to my mind.
The plot is concerned with Vianne and her daughter arriving in a French village and opening a chocolate shop directly opposite the church, much to the consternation of Father Reynaud who believes it is a spiritual danger to his people, as it is the beginning of lent. He makes it his mission to rid the town of them...

There is a definite feeling of supernaturalism to the story and also the conflict between spiritualities: good versus evil, organised religion versus ancient spirituality and different concepts of sin- it is written from various character's points of view making the debate more complex as the readers' sympathies are divided. The pithy characters are believably drawn and the various villagers add to the richness of the book, whilst also dealing with that universal topic that affects all communities; that of newcomers and locals, insiders and outsiders and the symbiotic relationship between them.

Read it if you like unconventional happy endings and mouthwatering descriptions.

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