Monday, August 20, 2012

Chocolat - Joanne Harris

Vianne Rocher and her six year old daughter, Anouk, arrive in the small French village, Lansquenet, on the day of the Shrove Tuesday Carnival. The local villagers are busy with the festivities but the strangers do not go unnoticed in their brightly coloured and fashionable clothes which sets them apart immediately.

Vianne has a talent for making delicious chocolate and has a special gift for knowing everybody’s favourite flavour. When she opens a chocolate boutique opposite the church in the village square not only does she raise a few eyebrows but she sets herself up against the local priest, Francis Reynaud, who takes exception to her offering this kind of temptation to the villagers, especially during Lent.

The villagers flock to Vianne’s little shop and in spite of Monsieur le Cure’s preaching against frequenting such a place, the Chocolatiere goes from strength to strength. Vianne makes many friends, and is soon very much a part of the community. She befriends Armande Voizin, an elderly local who is also somewhat of an outcast from the church and it’s worshippers, one of whom happens to be Armande’s estranged daughter.

When Vianne decides to hold an Easter Chocolate Festival on Easter Sunday she drives a wedge between her and the church and suddenly the conflict escalates into “Church not Chocolate” battle.

Chocolat is the first of three books in the series about the life of Vianne Rocher. It is such an adorable book, I didn’t want to go to bed until I had finished reading it and that does not happen to me very often at all. I love the mystery of Vianne’s character and the way in which she charms herself into the lives of the villagers of Lansquenet. She is exotic and beautiful and has a way about her that makes people feel stronger and better about themselves. Armande Voizin is another strong character in the story too. I loved her irreverence and bullishness.

Joanne Harris writes with such clarity, humour and style that I was transported to small town rural France from the first page. The conflict between Reynaud and Vianne is so well described that it is palpable and disturbing. I cannot wait to read the other books in the series; The Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur le Cure.

So enamoured was I by the book that I dug around for the film version which starred Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. In spite of outstanding performances from Ms’s Binoche and Dench the film version disappointed me slightly. I don’t know why I do this, I am always less than impressed with movies of books. However, when I think about it now, had I not read the book before watching the movie I would not have been disappointed but had I watched the film first I would not have picked up the book! What a terrible shame that would have been.



  1. Great review, I didn't realise that there were three books! I shall have to give this one a go!

  2. I think you would really enjoy this series, Dot. It is quite dark and very different from the film which I thought made the characters seem quite comical whereas in the book they are not. Hope you get to read it.