Review of ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris

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Chocolat had been sitting unread on my bookshelves for more years than I can count, but last weekend on a whim I settled down to read it while nibbling pieces of chocolate Easter eggs, which seemed wholly appropriate as the story takes places between Shrove Tuesday and Easter Sunday.

Chocolat follows Vianne Rocher and her daughter who sweep in on the winds of a carnival bringing flavour and colour to the drab and parochial French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes.

The novel is written in the first person, but switches between Vianne and Francis Reynaud, the village priest who takes umbrage when Vianne opens a Chocolaterie on the first day of Lent. The pace of Chocolat is meandering, yet the antagonism between Vianne and Reynaud builds suspense and drives the story on to its inevitable conclusion.

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The village of Lansquenet itself is rife with secrets, gossip and simmering tensions but Vianne finds friends among the other village outcasts and rebels, their kindness and camaraderie in stark contrast with Reynaud and his cronies’ hypocrisy and meddling.

Chocolat is a story that doesn’t reveal its secrets too quickly and kept me wondering right up to the end. I really enjoyed the supernatural elements of the story, there is magic in Chocolat, yet it is always understated and never becomes too fantastical.

The descriptions of Vianne’s chocolate creations are unsurprisingly mouth-watering and Chocolat was a delightful story that left me hungry for more. Have a lovely week.

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7 thoughts on “Review of ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris

  1. I almost spoiled this book for myself by choosing it as my specialist study in Higher English, but I chose it because I loved the antagonism she sets up between Christianity and the often unacknowledged pagan roots of many (all?) of its festivals. I had to go and read up on the particular myths and legends that lay behind those festivals – it was the start of a continuing fascination with how human culture adopts and adapts.

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    1. I like that Vianne and Curé Francis are both battling their own demons and find them in each other, but I also loved the interplay between dogma, zealotry, superstition and witchcraft. Must read her other books. X

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  2. I think the book works a little better around the Battle between Church and alternative lifestyles. – the film sidestepped the religious aspect by making the man mayor rather than priest.

    I love that mix of magic – it is one of my favourite books. If you enjoyed it there is lollipop shoes which follows on from the story – like Chocolat it slowly reveals itself. However the best Joanne Harris book I read was Gentlemen players – really magnificent story telling.

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