May 27, 2012

Book: Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:32 pm

The movie made a big splash when it was released a few years ago and so I was curious to see what the book is about. The book tells one part of the life of Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk, who arrive in a tiny French village from seemingly nowhere. She is so different from the villagers that they are uniformly suspicious of her. Knowing  hat she is not conservative, and that she does not go to Church regularly in that deeply religious place assures her of the everlasting opposition of Father Francis Reynaud.

When she opens an exquisite chocolate shop, the residents of the small village are torn between the desire to taste the chocolates and the instinct to stay away from the `evil influence’ in the village.

Anouk is a free spirit and has Pantoufle, an imaginary rabbit pet that she cares for all day long, and who accompanies her everywhere. Slowly, Anouk starts making friends in her school, almost against the will of the parents of the other children.

The village is populated by interesting characters: Guillarme, who cannot reconcile his deeply religious background and his respect for Father Reynaud with the priest’s words that he should stop worrying about his beloved dog who is dying `because dogs don’t have souls’.

There is also Paul-Marie Muscat, a prejudiced, bigot of a shopkeeper and his oppressed and abused wife Josephine Muscat, who is afraid even to smile or laugh. There is Armande Voizin, who is a free and rebellious spirit and hates her daughter Caro (Caroline Clairmont) and her controlling ways, and adores her grandson Luc Clairmont. The boy himself is under the thumb of an overbearing mother and has developed a stutter while speaking, always nervous and unsure of himself . There is Roux, who comes in with a band of gypsies and refuses to `simply go away’ because the townsfolk and Father Reynaud demand it. When he loses his boat and all his worldly possessions in an act of arson, he withdraws into himself and his group moves upriver a few miles to sit and sulk.

The story is told in an easy style and holds your interest. Reynaud’s talks to a priest, who is his mentor and guide but who is paralyzed  and cannot respond, add poignancy to the narrative. Armande’s seeming perception on the extraordinary powers of Vianne and suggestions of – but no demonstration of – Vianne’s supposed clairvoyant powers is interesting.

The story develops when more and more townspeople choose to speak out against bigotry and defy conventional straitjacket to join the liberal minded group.

Paul and Josephine’s struggles and her liberation are well told.

The story is about everyday life, and is a pleasant read, but there are no incidents that can leave a deep impression….

The chocolate shop descriptions including the types of chocolates and drinks are rich, like the chocolates themselves.

I would call it a 6/10

— Krishna


1 Comment »

  1. I have always wanted to read this after I watched the movie. Thank you for the reminder! 🙂

    Comment by Lea Jurock — May 27, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

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