Chocolat by Joanne Harris July 25, 2009Posted by KJ theBookGirl in review.
Tags: book, Chocolat, Conflict, Joanne Harris, KJ, Novel, Plot, recommendation, religion, review, Small town, theBookGirl, Vianne Rocher
Chocolat follows Vianne Rocher and her young daughter, Anouk, as they come to live in a quiet, deeply religious French town, with a very traditional, strict lifestyle. They open a chocolate shop in the town square, at the beginning of lent, and this sparks off the battle between church and chocolate.
“Try me…Test me…Taste me…
When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial. War is declared as the priest denounces the newcomer’s wares as the ultimate sin.
Suddenly Vianne’s shop-cum-café means that there is somewhere for secrets to be whispered, grievances to be aired, dreams to be tested. But Vianne’s plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community in a conflict that escalates into a ‘Church not Chocolate’ battle. As mouths water in anticipation, can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate éclair?
For the first time here is a novel in which chocolate enjoys its true importance. Rich, clever and mischievous, Chocolat is a literary feast for all senses.”
Joanne Harris hasn’t created a world or an adventure or a journey. She has perfectly depicted a reality. From the clever plot to the interesting characters to the vivid descriptions to the ideas and values, everything is insanely realistic. So realistic, in fact, it is clear that this is written exceptionally well.
The plot unfolds with Vianne Rocher communicating and interacting with the townsfolk who have previously been alone with their problems. She helps them, supports them and encourages them to do what makes them happy. There is conflict, however, in the form of the priest of the town, who, sheltering a dark secret from the past, now sees the townspeople as his flock, and wants to protect them from change of any sort. Conflict, too, comes from Vianne’s own past as worries and memories consume her everyday life.
Vianne Rocher has depth and interesting thoughts as she goes about her business, as does the priest who the reader tries hard to understand, despite his being the antagonist.
The story manages to be inoffensive in the adventures and observations of the town, although it discusses such sensitive issues as the innocence of religion.
It hints that although those who are religious are do-gooders and mean well, it is very rare to find someone who has any less flaws than any non-believer. It ponders the idea that it is not so much the religion that is necessary, but believing in doing what is morally right, and living familiarly with the community, as well as using common sense to sort out situations.
The book also discusses topics such as the way a community blocks anything new and is suspicious of even the slightest change, as is often found within human nature.
In conclusion, this is a brilliant read, looking at all aspects of real life in a small town.