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[71] Chocolat – Joanne Harris

chocolat.jpgPart fairy tale, this novel, written with lush detail of the life of a small French town, is a very textured piece of fiction whose scope exceeds far beyond the delicious variety of chocolate. (I do have to admit that the exotic candies mentioned in here are mouth-watering.) Under the guise of tasty sweets, Joanne Harris’s prose is garnished with wit and pathos, rendering the book not so much a chic lit (my initial bias) as a morality tale.

On the heels of a carnival Vianne Rocher settles into a pinched little French town of Lansquenet and opens an unheard-of trade–a chocolate shop–whose location is more than a direct affront against the church. That she uncannily perceives her customers’ private discontents and wittily alleviates their disquiet with the right confection eventually enrages the local priest, who then preaches a virulent sermon on the topic of abstinence. He deems the chocolatier his enemy, for she has wreaked havoc with the town’s Lenten vows. As self-righteous members of the congregation team up with the priest to ostricize the shop and the imminent chocolate festival, Vianne has reached out to lives of the twoners and befriended them.

The novel delves into the depth of people whose life is dominated by rigid church practices and traditions. Under the pretext that the timing of the chocolate gala is deplorable and that the shop is a live mockery of church teaching, the priest bears a vapid hostility to those who disobeys him. Not so much do I wish to undermine credibility of church officials as to point out that anyone, even a priest, can become hypocritical and he is not infallible. Even a priest can be blinded by his ego and loses focus of his spirituality. Never has I seen him reaching into people’s lives.

While the priest pits himself against Vianne and contrives to thwart the festival planned for Easter Sunday, Vianne has fulfilled a grandmother’s wish, encouraged an unhappy woman to start living for herself, consoled a man whose dog passed away, and welcomed a group of gypsies whom the town despise. Chocolat will pull your heart-string with its brimming humanity and warmth.

3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the inspiration. Normally I read the book and forgo the movie… but with Chocolat I have only seen the movie. I thought it was extremely well done and rather dreamy. Watching the chocolate being stirred in the cup with red pepper: oh my gosh! I will read the book now, and if you haven’t seen the movie, I definitely recommend it! Unfortunately, I cannot eat chocolate. This is all quite torturous.

  2. I’m so glad you liked this book. I love her writing and the fairy tale quality of the story. I think she is definitely a cut above chicklit! The movie is very good, too!

  3. […] language more than characters. Off the top of my head at this moment would be Vianne Rocher from Chocolat by Joanne Harris. While the priest pits himself against Vianne, who opens a chocolate shop in town, […]

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