Guest Review: Chocolat

Request review by Lisa

Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, was born in her grandparents' candy shop in France and is the great-granddaughter of a woman known locally as a witch and a healer. Half-French, half-English, she teaches French at a school in Northern England.

Those that have seen the movie adaptation will not be disappointed. Most of the main characters and nearly all of the major events are familiar, although there are some fairly substantial differences (particularly in the backstory).

Vianne and her daughter, Anouk, travel from place to place, just as Vianne and her mother did. Then they land in Lansquenet, open a chocolate shop and begin to become a part of the village, much to the chagrin of the village priest. The quiet, restrained villagers begin to experience the pleasures of life, discover their own strengths, and examine their relationships.

Harris's writing evokes a powerful sense of place. You can clearly envision the village, smell the flowers, and taste the chocolate. Just don't read it on an empty stomach!

Author Q&A… click here to read the complete Q&A

Why do food and drink play such a major role in your books?
I think tastes and smells are particularly evocative to us because as newborns we first experience the world through those two senses. That means that our emotional response to a taste or a smell (think of Proust and his lime-blossom tisane) can act upon us at a very powerful, subconscious level. This is also true in literature, folk tale and mythology, where food and drink have played an important symbolic role for centuries. In more recent literature, such references provide a handy means of reflecting different cultures and distant places. It's also a very useful indicator of personality. Eating habits provide us with an insight into a person's background, character, family and upbringing, as well as their general attitude to life and to other people. Besides, readers understand food; in our increasingly diverse and multicultural society, eating remains one of the very few experiences we all have in common; a pleasure, a comfort and a means of expression.

Do you identify with your characters?
Yes, often; I don't think it's possible to avoid it really, although I don't usually tend to identify with one specific character. Instead I try to understand all the characters I write; even when they are difficult, harsh people, it should be possible to identify why they behave as they do, and to feel some sympathy for their position.

Type: Fiction, 320 pages, trade paperback

Reviews:

BN.COM Review: 'Chocolat', the beautiful and captivating story i read a few years ago, still stands as my favorite book. Joanne Harris writes with powerful and colorful imagery in this story about love, self-confidence, friendship and of course chocolate.

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