Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Discovery of Chocolate

Discovery of Chocolate

3.6 3
by James Runcie

See All Formats & Editions

Diego de Godoy sets off for South America in 1518 with Cortes and the Conquistadors. During his travels he falls in love with Ignacia, a native woman who introduces him to the secrets of the most delicious drink he has ever tasted: chocolate. Tragically, their passionate affair is cut short by the chaotic conquest of Mexico.

Diego later discovers that his


Diego de Godoy sets off for South America in 1518 with Cortes and the Conquistadors. During his travels he falls in love with Ignacia, a native woman who introduces him to the secrets of the most delicious drink he has ever tasted: chocolate. Tragically, their passionate affair is cut short by the chaotic conquest of Mexico.

Diego later discovers that his lover had secretly added the elixir of life to his chocolate. Unable to die, he lives on through history — Paris during the time of the Revolution, Vienna in the 19th century, late Victorian England, and Hershey, Pennsylvania — accompanied by his trusty greyhound, Pedro. All the while, he searches to recapture the magic of Ignacia's chocolate — and to learn to love life just as fully.

Playful and intelligent, this is a romantic story about love and loss inspired by a very enchanting substance.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a series of vignettes that span four centuries and are linked by their focus on chocolate, immortal protagonist Diego de Godoy presides over the discovery and refinement of the divine confection--but his concomitant reflections on life and love, too often trite, leave the reader hungering for more satisfying fare. In 1518, Diego, a young Spaniard anxious to prove his devotion to the lady Isabella, joins a ship of conquistadors bound for the Americas under the leadership of Cort s. His devotion to Isabella wanes, however, when, as a guest of Montezuma in Mexico, he meets the lovely Ignacia and tastes the smooth, bittersweet drink she serves him--cacahuatl, or chocolate. Diego and Ignacia spend an idyllic week together before his fellow Spaniards turn on Montezuma and raze his land. The lovers are forced to part, but not before Ignacia serves Diego a magical drink that makes him immortal and able to travel though time. In the centuries that follow, Diego charms Spanish nobility with his mole sauce, prepares chocolate creams with the Marquis de Sade in the Bastille, invents the Sacher torte, undergoes analysis with Sigmund Freud in Vienna and helps Hershey invent the Kiss--though he longs all the while for his Ignacia and resents the curse of his protracted existence. While Runcie, a BBC filmmaker, offers a clever conceit and meticulous, enticing descriptions of chocolate-making, Diego's philosophizing falls short by comparison, and the plot relies to heavily upon contrivance and coincidence. Still, those willing to suspend disbelief and simply go along for the ride will be beguiled by Diego's fanciful, sensual journey. Author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
British screenwriter Runcie's debut is a Zelig-esque romp taking his sad-sack hero from the early 16th century through the early 20th. In Seville, a young man is enamored of a fine lady named Isabella, who strikes a bargain: she'll be his if he can bring her"a gift which no man or woman had ever received before." And so, in 1519, off to the New World sails Diego de Godoy with the conquistador Cortés. In Mexico, while the Spanish armies busy themselves conquering Montezuma, Diego falls head over heels for the lovely Ignacia—and discovers the delights of chocolate. This is the gift he takes back to Isabella—but, impressive though the new taste be, Diego no longer loves Isabella, only Ignacia. It's back to Mexico, then, where Diego finds only what seems to be Ignacia's grave. In her family's city of Chiapas, no one has ever heard of her, and Diego is told that, if he can remember Montezuma, he has to be at least 150 years old (his dog Pedro, too). Aha! it must be the effects of the elixir Ignacia gave him to drink on his departure from her! Poor Diego, lovelorn and uncertain what to do, returns to Europe and—surprise!—is imprisoned in the Bastille with a Marquis who loves Diego's chocolates and comes perilously near sodomizing Pedro in a most sadistic way. On to Vienna, where not only will Diego's part in creating the first Sacher torte become clear; not only will he befriend a prostitute who sits for an artist named Gustav (Klimt, might it be?); but his increasing sorrows, depression, alcoholism (and temporary loss of smell) take him for treatment to the Vienna General Hospital, where—that's right, a certain youngdoctorhas him lie on acouch and talk. There will be much more—including the curious origin of chocolate kisses—before such an end occurs as certainly won't be revealed here. Quick, simple, ever-amusing historical fun. Author tour

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Although it is true that I have been considered lunatic on many occasions in the last five hundred years, it must be stated, at the very beginning of this sad and extraordinary tale, that I have been most grievously misunderstood. The elixir of life was drunk in all innocence and my dog had nothing to do with it.

Let me explain.

Having once embarked on a precarious and often dangerous quest, I have now been condemned to roam the world, unable to die. I have lost all trace of my friends and family and have been separated from the only woman that I have ever loved. And although it might seem a blessing to be given the possibility of eternal life and to taste its delights without end, taking pleasure where one will, and living without judgment or morality, it is, in fact, an existence of unremitting purgatory. I cannot believe that this has happened to me and have only decided to tell my story so that others who might seek to cheat death and live such a life should be alert to its dangers.

My troubles began at the age of twenty when I, Diego de Godoy, notary to Emperor Charles V, first crossed the Atlantic as a young man in search of fame and fortune. The year was fifteen hundred and eighteen.

Of course it was all for love.

Isabella de Quintallina, a lady of sixteen years who lived, like me, in Seville, had taken possession of my soul. Although our temperaments seemed ideally suited, my lack of noble birth put me at a considerable disadvantage; and, after six months of prolonged and ardent courtship, I began to doubt if I could ever win her love. I was further dismayed when Isabella set me the following challenge.

If wewere to be joined in matrimony, I would have to hazard everything I owned-all my prospects, all my safety, and all my future-on one bold venture. She asked me to travel with the Conquistadors, and return, not only with the gold and riches on which our future life together would depend, but also with a gift which no man or woman had ever received before, a true and secret treasure which only we would share. Isabella had heard that in the New World gold and silver could be plucked from the earth in abundance. Pepper, nutmegs, and cloves could be harvested in all seasons; cinnamon had been found within the bark of a tree; and strange insects could render up vibrant tints to dye her silks the deepest scarlet. She was convinced that I would be able to find a love token that was both spectacular and unique, and would wait for me for two years, suffering the attentions of no other man, until the arrival of her eighteenth birthday. Succeed, and Isabella vowed the world would be mine; however, if I failed, she would have no choice but to seek the hand of another and never look upon me again.

Two years! This was more than all the time in which we had known one another.

Despair entered the very fabric of my being, and I do not think that I had ever felt so alone. My sweet mother had died when I was an infant, and my poor blind father was too distressed to counsel me, terrified that I would never return from such a journey.

But there was no choice.

I must live or die for love.

After presenting me with her portrait in a miniature silver case, Isabella took pity on my plight and gave me her pet greyhound to act as a companion on the long voyage ahead. Tears welled up in her eyes, the hound whimpered in accompaniment, and my beloved implored me to see the sacrifice she had made, asking me to believe that such generosity surely proved her love since there was nothing she valued more in the world than Pedro's devoted and unquestioning loyalty.

This was extremely awkward because, in truth, I did not actually want the dog. I have always detested the manner in which such animals fawn upon their owners, bite the heels of strangers, soil gardens, and rut at the most inopportune moments. But this young puppy was forced into my arms without any suspicion that he might be the last thing in the world that I required. In short, I was landed with him, and could only declare that he was indeed the true testament of her love, and that I would endeavour to return with an equivalent prize.

And so, after tearful and prolonged farewells with my father, I took my leave. Isabella threw herself into my arms, pressing her breasts against my chest, her blond ringlets falling on my shoulders, and then watched from the quayside as I boarded the caravel Santa Gertrudis. Great cries of A dios, A dios, rose from the ship, and the crowds called out, Buen viaje, buen viaje. Slowly, and with a terrible inevitability, the ship pulled away and the sight of my beloved began to recede into the distance. It was as if we were being stretched apart from each other forever. I clasped Isabella's portrait to my bosom and felt a great weight behind my eyes as the tears welled up. All that had previously defined me was swept away by the journey down the Guadalquivir River and out to sea toward the Americas.

I had never before contemplated the life of a sailor, and the inconstancy of the voyage disheartened me; for there was not a moment when our ship was still or we could be at peace. The calm seas which we met at the outset of the journey were interrupted by unwelcome and intemperate gusts of wind, and strange currents pulled the ship in directions in which we had not meant to travel. The nights were filled with the fearsome sounds of dragging, moaning, and creaking, deep in the hull.

The Discovery of Chocolate. Copyright © by James Runcie. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

James Runcie is an award-winning filmmaker in England. He has scripted three films for BBC Television, reviewed books for the Daily Telegraph, and has written for the Observer, the Evening Standard, and Country Living. This is his first novel.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Discovery of Chocolate 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I read The Discovery of Chocolate, I felt that, instead of a novel, this was a collection of short stories. The first story, in which Diego, seeking a unique treasure, joins the Cortez expedition to conquer Mexico, is full of the romance, adventure, and passion which I had hoped to find in a book of this title. There then follows an interlude in which Diego returns to Spain, is rejected by Isabella, and then journeys again to Mexico in search of his true love, Ignacia. During this second visit to Mexico, Diego learns of his own immortality. The second ¿story¿ provides a vivid picture of Diego¿s life in Paris, some two hundred years after his adventures in Mexico. The writer¿s passion returns in his description of the preparation of various chocolate treats, including Diego¿s first experience of the combination of raspberries and chocolate. In the third ¿story¿, we read of Diego¿s life in Vienna. This story consists of three somewhat disjointed episodes. To the reader, it seems odd that Diego¿s dog, Pedro, who has been present throughout the book to this point, effectively disappears from the story, only to reappear later at a critical moment. In the first ¿Vienna Episode¿, Diego meets Franz Sacher and, with Sacher¿s children, creates the wonderful Sachertorte. Sadly, the writer¿s energy is spent on the three bratty children, and not on the new dessert. The writer¿s appetite is aroused more by the apricot jam than by the chocolate component of the sachertorte. The book then moves to Diego¿s relationship with Claudia, a prostitute. This episode illustrates the emptiness of Diego¿s life. As part of the emptiness, chocolate is not prominent in this episode. Diego then meets Sigmund Freud. This episode is an unsatisfying plot device used to provide Diego¿s motivation to move on to the next stage of his life. The remainder of the book is quite disappointing. Diego becomes associated with Joseph S. Fry, who developed the first chocolate bar. This episode, which the book covers in a mere five pages, is quite unsatisfactory to the reader, for the romance, the adventure, and the flavor are all missing. Perhaps the author¿s message is that chocolate no longer is a heavenly food when it is produced for mass consumption. Diego next moves to the United States, where he works with Milton Hershey in the development of the Hershey Kiss. This episode is described in a brief two pages, and is less fulfilling than the aroma from an empty plastic bag which once held Hershey Kisses. Finally, Diego returns to Mexico and is reunited with Ignacia, who is also immortal. Sadly, the reunion scene fails to satisfy, as Diego prepares a feast, rather than an exquisite chocolate, for his beloved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For a first-time author, Runcie does an admirable job of pulling together the plot of Diego, Pedro (the greyhound) and Ignacia and the elixir of love, Chocolate. 'He who loves truly, forgets slowly,' permeates Diego's heart and mind forever with thoughts of his love for Ignacia. A delightful spin through four centuries of Diego and his ability to create chocolate delicacies and his never ending search for love. Diego admits 'he's slow' in catching on to life as he stumbles over the centuries until he is finally convinced he can never be happy until he goes back once again to Mexico to find his love, Ignacia. A terrific romp through Europe and Mexico in a fast paced and delightful book. Chocolate loves will simply drool as Diego mixes his chocolate confections!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Runcie's debut novel, 'The Discovery of Chocolate,' is laden with prose as rich as the finest chocolates. His tale is inventive: A 16th century Spaniard goes to 'the New World' in search of a unique gift for his lady love. In Mexico, he drinks a curious beverage called 'cacahuatl' -- chocolate. In pursuit of this treasure, he falls in love. What follows is his journey across continents and centuries, intoxicated by both love and chocolate. He is kept company by his first love's pet greyhound, Pedro. Together they meet the Marquis de Sade, Sigmund Freud, and participate in the invention of pain de chocolate, Sachertorte, and the humble Hershey's kiss. This is a fable lush in sensual detail and rich in intimate reflection. It was a very emotional read, leaving me tearful and spent with heartache, ravenously hungry for both chocolate and passion.