Publishers: First Published in Great Britain in 1999 by Doubleplay, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Black Swan edition published 2000, Black Swan edition reissued 2007 Chocolat is a 1999 novel by Joanne Harris. It tells the story of Vianne Rocher, a young single mother, who arrives in the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent with her six-year-old daughter, Anouk.
Vianne opens a chocolate shop, La Celeste Praline, right opposite the village church, and throughout the traditional season self-denial Lent, proceeds to gently change the lives of the villagers who visit her chocolaterie with a combination of sympathy, determination and a little magic. This scandalizes the parish priest, Francis Reynaud, and his supporters who are convinced Vivian is evil.
As tensions run high, the community is increasingly divided, and as Easter approaches, pitting the ritual of the Church against the indulgence of chocolate, Father Reynaud and Vianne Rocher face an inevitable battle I personally really loved the book; Joanne Harris really did a great job in creating an enticing plot with a bunch of strong and unique characters. My favorite is Anouk who although is only six years old brings such life to the book and manages to give a bit of light heartedness to points where the book can become heavy.
This is a wonderful tale of family and magic and hope. It is not your typical romance and well worth the time. The book is a full of strong opinions and characters; Ms. Harris manages to capture your attention with her delicious descriptions and fast moving plot. There really is never a boring moment in this book, its fantastic for anyone who loves books that are thought provoking yet still enjoyable and fun. An Important moment in this book is when Vianne decides the hold the Easter Chocolate Festival.
At this point in the book you begin to see the rivalry between Vianne and Father Francis Reynaud through the chocolates and the church. Although the rivalry mostly comes from Father Reynaud, Vianne can feel the dislike he has for her. Many of the town’s folk really began to divide at this point. We also began to see Reynaud began to go mad with his obsession for Vianne and the destroying of her chocolates. We see Reynaud change quite considerably throughout the book. Francis Reynaud, like any religious man in a small town, has a big influence on all the people of Lansquenet.
He is quit oppressive with his views and tends to carry a very much holier than thou attitude towards his parish. At one point in the book he compares himself to a sheapard and how his flock need him “Sheep are not the docile, pleasant creatures of the pastoral idyll. Any countryman will tell you that. They are sly, occasionally vicious, and pathologically stupid. The lenient shepherd may find his flock unruly, defiant. I cannot afford to be lenient. ” His suspicions begin with the arrival of Vianne and Anouk and his initial strategy is to try and befriend the enemy.
He offers her help in repairing the bakery but she refuses politely, emphasizing that she has got it all under control. He hopes that people will realize that she should be evicted on their own in fear of tarnishing his reputation. His plan works at first as concerned mothers begin to forbid their children from spending time with Anouk, as she plants wild ideas in to their heads. Also business is not running very smoothly at the chocolate shop and Reynaud begins to believe that it is just a matter of time before they leave with the changing of the wind.
We see him slowly began to grasp for desperation that he is right that Vianne is evil and that he is still better than all his parishioners. He reaches boiling point when madness and rage take over his mind and he breaks into La Celeste Praline the morning before Mass and gobbles down chocolate after over a month of fasting. His reputation is tarnished and respect vanished. He runs away and is never heard of again. Josephine Muscat first appears as a nervous introvert. She is quiet and slumps when she walks.
She is gossiped about and pitied throughout Lansquenet, as the fact that her husband physically abuses her is one of the worst kept secrets around. She does not mutter a word about it and her thoughts are so cloudy that even Vianne, with all her power, fails to understand what lies in her head. With time, Josephine begins to talk to Vianne more and begins to spend more time in the chocolate shop. Vianne’s influence and advice eventually result in Josephine leaving her husband Paul and moving in with Vianne in the chocolate’s shop spare room.
The more time she spends with Vianne, the more Josephine’s personality blossoms. She now walks with her head held high and has substituted her dark wardrobe for a new, more colorful one. She speaks with an audible, confident voice and can now look people in the eyes. A spark is felt between her and Roux as they indulge in conversation and become closer when she moves to the chocolate shop and he settles in Lansquenet. She even faces Paul one last time on her own. She is transformed from the average, abused housewife to the confident, independent female as the novel develops.
Joanne Harris is a very descriptive writer, which you find quite early on in the book. Although she does use quite descriptive writing she does it very well and it transcends into beautiful pieces of writing that are hard to follow “ We came on the wind of the carnival. A warm wind for February, laden with the hot greasy scents of frying pancakes and sausages and powdery-sweet waffles cooked on the to plate right there by the roadside with the confetti sleeting down collars and cuffs and rolling in the gutters like an idiot antidote to winter. Something really interesting about the author is that she mixes French with English. So while most of the book is English, songs, signs or names are still very much French. She also uses her chapters as a way to create a timeline for the book. At the begging of each chapter we receive a date allowing us to process where we are in the year. Joanne Harris is a popular British writer, who has written a total of fourteen books many of which were bestsellers. Joanne’s book Chocolat has been adapted into the Oscar nominated movie staring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche.
She lives with her Husband and daughter in Yorkshire and her hobbies include “ Mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quite subversion. ” She can speak both French and English and she was strongly influenced by Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales and the tales of Charles Perrault, as well as local folklore and Norse mythology. The cover for Chocolat I think it is very appropriate and gives you a successful looking into the plot before you even look into the book with the bright colours of Vianne’s clothes to the chocolate Easter eggs.
By the time you finish the book you complete understand the symbolism of a woman sitting and holding a nest full of Easter Eggs. I think that this book would be suited to mostly older men and woman but it can defiantly appeal to young adults as well. Personally I think it would get to heavy for younger readers and not all would understand the issues brought up in the book. The book has been made into a movie starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche, standing on its own the movie is absolutely fantastic a wonderful love story. Yet when compared along side the book it fails completely.
Not only is the book completely different to the movie with a change of couples and villains but also with the plot line it just lacks the darkness found in the book. There is something captivating about the transition from Vianne’s thoughts to Father Reynaud’s and the slow build up of the plot through it. Also I hate the disregarded for the lesser characters in the movie half of the people in the book aren’t even mentioned in the movie! And although many of them don’t have huge significant roles they still help shape the story.