Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chocolat: A Novel by Joanne Harris

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pages: 306
Genre: Fiction
Series: No
Publication Date: 1999

Synopsis (From Back Cover):
When beautiful, unmarried Vianne Rocher sweeps into the pinched little French town of Lansquenet on the heels of the carnival and opens a gem of a chocolate shop across the square from the church, she begins to wreak havoc with the town's Lenten vows. Her uncanny ability to perceive her customer's private discontents and alleviate them with just the right confection coaxes the villagers to abandon themselves to temptation and happiness, but enrages Pere Reynaud, the local priest. Certain only a witch could stir such sinful indulgence and devise such clever cures, Reynaud pits himself against Vianne and vows to block the chocolate festival she plans for Easter Sunday, and to run her out of town forever. Witch or not (she'll never tell), Vianne soon sparks a dramatic confrontation between those who prefer the cold comforts of the church and those who revel in their newly discovered tastes for pleasure.

Chocolat is written like a fairly tale. The writing is very fluid, lyrical and romantic. Written in first person, the story is told through the view points of two very different, yet similar people. Vianne is a drifter, has been a drifter all her life. Since childhood her and her mother have traveled from place to place never settling in one stop. Now an adult she is repeating the same patterns set by her mother. Reynaud is a country priest in the town that Vianne had decided to settle, at least for the moment. Reynaud is a local boy and worry of outsiders.

Early in the story Harris sets up the tense and animosity between Reynaud and Vianne. Vianne since that Reynaud sees her as a threat and worries what pain he will inflect on her and her called. Reynaud sees Vianne and her daughter as sinners, sent to wreck havoc on his congregation. Its and interesting battle, Reynaud takes it more seriously than Vianne. Yet, the reader can feel the struggle of between the characters. Reynaud's frustration has citizens of Lansquenet welcome Viannee and her chocolate shop into there community is almost tangible. His struggle with setting an example by being pleasant but wanting to protect his sense of tradition are strong.

Vianne, on the other hand, is struggling with her past and the hopes for her child's future. She can't decide if Reynaud is an actually threat or rather a manifestation of past worries and insecurity. Readers get to see how Vianne's personality and ability to understand people draw people into her show and how bonds between her and the town are formed. Vianne and her daughter, Anouk, are very likable characters. There bond is nice written and portrayed in the story.

Chocolat, has been made into a movie and the books has a different feel. The movie (if I remember correctly) is more of a love story. The book is not a love story, its a story about change. Yet, like the movie it has a very whimsical feel. Harris does a good job of illustrating Vianne and Anouk gifts without making the story overly exaggerated. The fantasy magical aspect seems like a part of the story without making the story see make believe.

The one thing that this story lacks is a climax that does the story justice. The climax in the story is very lackluster. It almost came and went. The story was set up for this final battle between Reynaud and Vianne but that never manifested.

Pros: Writing, Characters, Plot
Cons: Climax

Overall Recommendation:

Chocolat is a good novel. The writing is excellent and the character likable. Highly recommended. But be aware that the movie does not follow the book that closely and if you are looking for a great love story this is not the night novel. Instead, try Like Water for Chocolate.

Library Challenge (19 out of 25 books)
Round The World Passage (7 out of 18 books)
TBR Challenge (9 out of 12 books)

Other Reviews:

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  1. Thanks for the link to my review...I agree with you that Harris' language in this novel is beautiful and lyrical...but I found my self disappointed in the plot.

  2. I wanted to read this book but somehow thought it would not live up to my expectations. But if you say it reads like a fairy tale, I'm deifnitely going to give this a try. LOVE your layout, very neat.