Monday, September 10, 2012

by Joanne Harris

This little gem has been around for awhile, so I’m glad I finally picked it up. Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk have spent their lives on the move. They flit from town to town, never staying in one place for too long. When they stumble upon a festival in a small French town and decide to stay for awhile. They open a Chocolate shop in the middle of Lent season, which makes them the focus of the local priest’s ire.

The novel is so charming that you can’t help being swept away by the magic in it. There are some amazing characters each of whom made the book worth reading. There’s Roux, the local gypsy who is hardworking, but can’t let go of his pride. Lovely Josephine Muscat whose spirit has been broken by her cruel husband; her transformation is one of the most beautiful aspects of the story. The strange, cruel priest Reynaud makes an interesting villain for the story. A sweet elderly man Guillaume and his dog Charly are regulars at the shop. Then there is my favorite, Armande, a strong-willed woman with a sharp wit and a soft spot for her grandson Luc.

In addition to wonderful characters there’s some meat to the story. It touches on the relationship between religion and community. It looks at spousal abuse, care for the elderly, prejudice between different groups of people and more. It held just the right balance of these elements and great storytelling for me.

BOTTOM LINE: I really loved the story and I felt so connected to the characters. Plus the descriptions of the small provincial village and the chocolate treats were mouth-watering. It made me want to hop on a plane to France and visit a chocolate shop. I liked the pieces from the priest’s POV the least, but overall I was a big fan.

p.s. This is a rare case where I think I enjoyed the movie as much as the book. I actually saw it first, but even when I compared the two I still think it holds up well.

“Politics, music, chess, religion, rugby, poetry – they swoop and segue from one topic to another like gourmets at a buffet who cannot bear to leave any dish untasted.”

“Josephine looked doubtful, ‘I don’t see how anyone can celebrate dying,’ she said at last.
‘You don’t,’ I told her. ‘Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even it’s end.’”

“…she put her face against the counter, and cried silently. I let her. I didn’t say it would be okay. I made no effort to comfort her. Sometimes it’s better to leave things as they are, to let grief take its course.”


Anne said...

I loved the book and the movie too! I thought it was Johnie Depp's best work.

Care said...

Me,too. (agree that movie and book are both enjoyable - doesn't hurt to 'see' Johnny Depp when you read the book, either.)

Nikki Steele said...

This sounds like such a fun one to read! I also liked the movie and am glad to here the remake from the book went so well.

Also, loving the list of books you're currently reading (Atwood, Ender's Game), can't wait to see your thoughts on them.

Heather said...

Oh, I LOVED Chocolat when I read it a few years ago. It started me on a love affair with Joanne Harris's books. I'm kinda feeling like I need a reread now…. Wonder where to fit it in….

Do you plan to read the sequel? I have it, but I've been kind of scared to!

Amanda said...

I completely agree! I saw the movie first and loved it, then read the book and also loved it, even though it was different. I just finished reading Gentlemen & Players by her, and it was great as well!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I didn't know there was a sequel!

I LOVE this movie--it's one of those that I could watch and then immediately start it back up again (weird, I know--sometimes I do this when I'm sewing). but because I love the movie so much I've been scared to actually read the book. I'm glad to hear that it held up to your expectations.

Carl V. Anderson said...

So glad to hear that you still like the movie after reading the book. I haven't read the book but I deeply love the film. It is one of those movies that I feel is a piece of art in and of itself. It is beautiful and so well done.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Anne - He's perfect in the movie!

Care - I couldn't help picturing him in that role while I was reading it!

Nikki Steele - Ender's Game is a re-read. It's been almost 10 years since I read it and it was such a treat to revisit those characters.

Heather - I haven't read the sequel yet, but I would really like to!

Amanda - I'm glad she's not a one-hit-wonder author. I can't wait to check out some of her other work.

Trish - I love the movie too! I have a few that I could watch over and over again. Movies based on Jane Austen's books and the Harry Potter movies tend to be that way for me.

Carl V. - I love the movie so much too! I was nervous about reading this one, because I thought it might be too different from the film.