Book Review: Chocolat by Joanne Harris

A book that is for all of the senses, Joanne Harris sweeps the audience away on a charming journey that is subtle as it is fascinating. 

The story follows single mother Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk as they arrive in a small and traditional town on Shrove Tuesday as the residents prepare for Lent. Almost immediately, Vianne catches the attention and disapproval of the young curé of the parish, when he discovers she is opening a chocolate shop.

But as the other residents slowly but surely begin to react to her charm, Francis Reynaud sees her as big and dangerous threat to the community – becoming clearer as Easter and her chocolate festival approaches…

What makes this book so charming to read over and over again is the way in which it makes you look at people and getting to grips as to why they are the way they are. Finding new depths in each of the characters, on top of a gentle story that blends individual stories into one seamlessly doesn’t fail to enchant and hold the reader’s attention.

Joanne Harris writes so vividly that it is easy to visualise and smell (particularly in reference to the food) everything that she describes in great detail – making it a book  for all the senses.

The book flows along with ease and everything is brought carefully together, to show how one person can make a difference in changing thoughts and opinions. Whether it making Josephine Muscat find her courage or helping to show the villagers that life isn’t always black and white – that it needs to be lived not by rules but by freedom and enjoyment, Vianne is right at the centre of the change and is fascinating to read how the people of the town change.

It is a wonderfully right and descriptive book that really makes the reader feel as though they are right there and living through and experiencing everything that the characters are – whether it is witnessing the development of the chocolate festival or simple the simple day to day chores of running a shop.

If there is something lacking, it is the fact that the tone of the book can come across as quite emotionless that can make it difficult to really appreciate some of the characters that Harris has created. The ending also feels slightly anti-climatic and the reader may be left feeling slightly dissatisfied with the way that things are left, with questions that still could have been answered.

However, this shouldn’t distract from the wonderful vividness of the book and the charm that can be found in the way in which Joanne Harris writes.

Chocolat is available to buy and download through Amazon.


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