Five Quarters of the Orange

( 67 )

Overview

When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realize that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that...

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Overview

When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realize that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that summer of her ninth year. . . .

The novels of Joanne Harris are a literary feast for the senses. Five Quarters of the Orange represents Harris's most complex and sophisticated work yet. A novel in which darkness and fierce joy come together to create an unforgettable story.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
From Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat, comes another highly palatable saga of complex human relationships and the sometimes twisted vagaries of love. In Five Quarters of the Orange, Harris tells a haunting story of dark secrets and bitter tragedy in a tale that simmers its way to a roiling boil.

Sixty-three-year-old Framboise Dartigen returns incognito to the tiny French village where she lived as a child, in order to confront a horrific tragedy that occurred 55 years earlier during the German occupation -- a tragedy that implicated her family and still haunts the town to this day. Back then, while her widowed mother struggled to make a living from her fruit farm, Framboise and her siblings befriended a German soldier who provided them with treats in exchange for tidbits of information. Then a seemingly innocent series of events snowballed into a horrifying tragedy -- the truth of which is hidden (mingled with hundreds of family recipes) in a scrapbook her mother has bequeathed to her. Now, as that truth is about to surface, Framboise must expose painful family secrets and face the facts of her own complicity.

Harris digs deep into the complex fabric of family relationships, deftly contrasting the innocence of a young girl’s dreams with her capability for cruelty. This tantalizing mix of intrigue and betrayal makes for a sensual and sumptuous literary feast. (Beth Amos)

Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Compelling . . . Harris once again revels in the smells and tastes of French food."
Richmond Times-Dispatch
"The craftsmanship and emotional power of this novel...place Ms. Harris in the forefront of women writers."
New York Times Book Review
"Unexpectedly sweet and powerful."
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Compelling . . . Harris once again revels in the smells and tastes of French food.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
The craftsmanship and emotional power of this novel...place Ms. Harris in the forefront of women writers.
New York Times Book Review
Unexpectedly sweet and powerful.
Philadelphia Inquirer
[Harris's] prose reads like poetry, and it is a physical experience to fall into her imagery.
From The Critics
It's a good thing Harris enjoys writing about food. The attention surrounding Chocolat, her novel that was adapted into an award-winning film, will likely send readers to the shelves in search of another magical narrative incorporating lovingly-prepared delicacies. The story of Framboise Dartigen (the character's siblings are also named for various edibles and spices) begins with this sixtysomething woman returning to the French village where she was raised, and where dark secrets that only she knows are buried. Armed with a prized cookbook willed to her by her temperamental mother (it is the memento that identifies her as the favorite child), Dartigen opens up a creperie, which provides the author with plenty of opportunity to describe a lush variety of delectable edibles. Beyond her evocative descriptions of paella antillaise and dried apricot clafoutis, Harris' absorbing, well-crafted novel is ultimately the story of a woman coming to terms with her past.
—Mimi O'Connor

(Excerpted Review)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If Harris's previous novel, Chocolat, was an adorably sweet morsel of French village lore, then this, her third, is a richer, more complex dessert wine. Still using her arsenal of culinary metaphors, quirky characters and slightly surreal incidents, Harris presents a complicated but beautiful tale involving misfortune, mystery and intense family relations. Framboise Dartigen, a feisty yet sensitive girl, grew up in a gossip-ridden hamlet on the banks of the Loire called Les Laveuses. Striving for attention and power, nine-year-old Framboise (or Boise, to her family) took to playing nasty tricks on her headstrong, mentally vulnerable mother, Mirabelle, who had a weakness for oranges. And it was not the usual affliction Mirabelle actually experienced "spells" (akin to epileptic fits) if she even smelled the fruit. But despite Framboise's girlish pranks, Mirabelle's maternal instinct was strong. When her children befriended German soldiers who were in the village during the World War II occupation, things went awry, and mother and children were forced to flee. As Framboise tells the tale, she's in her 60s and has returned to Les Laveuses, posing as a widow named Fran oise Simon. When the caf she owns is reviewed in a national food magazine, her cover is blown and the past resurfaces. Harris has constructed a multilayered plot, punctuated with scrumptious descriptions of French delicacies and telling depictions of the war's jolting effects on one fragile family. This intense work brims with sensuality and sensitivity. (May) Forecast: Given Chocolat's brilliant success in print and on screen, this book will have no trouble attracting attention. Whether the previous book's readers are ready for this more serious novel is questionable, however. Harris, who lives in England, will make appearances in six U.S. cities in early June. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Tragedy, revenge, suspicion, and love are the ingredients for the latest offering from the author of the acclaimed Chocolat. Framboise Dartigen recounts what happened in her tiny village of Les Laveuses during the German occupation and why after carrying the secret for more than 55 years she hid her identity upon returning. Beset by wartime privations, the people of Les Laveuses were a mixture of resistance fighters, collaborators, and financial opportunists. When a German soldier died mysteriously, townspeople were executed, and Framboise's mother was tortured and driven out by her neighbors, who believed that she had collaborated. Only her children knew the truth, and now Framboise, the sole survivor, has come back to claim the family farm and run a little cr perie featuring her mother's recipes. In the album she inherited from her mother are not only her recipes and mementos but also clues to what really happened so long ago. Like the oranges whose fragrance so tortured Framboise's mother, the ending is bittersweet, and readers will love it. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/01.] Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Framboise Dartigen relates this story from her point of view as a nine-year-old and as a woman in her 60s. She spent her childhood in a Nazi-occupied French village with her widowed mother and siblings. Knowing that the scent of oranges brought on her mother's severe migraines, Framboise was clever enough or devious enough to hoard orange peel for her own advantage. During their unsupervised play, the children met a young Nazi soldier and were captivated by his charm and the black-market gifts that he gave them. Years later, Framboise, now a widow herself, returns to the village on a quest for the truth about her family's role in a tragic event for which her mother bore the blame and was forced by the townspeople to flee. Framboise inherited her mother's journal, and soon learns that the past and the present are intertwined. Harris has woven a dark, complex story of a dysfunctional family in stressful times. As in the author's Chocolat (Viking, 2000), mother and, later, daughter are gifted cooks whose love of food and cooking shows in the wonderful descriptions of bread, cake, fruit, wine, olives, etc. A picture of life in an occupied territory emerges in which collaborators, resisters, enemies, friends, and family members live in the same area, going about their daily routines. Harris's fans will not be disappointed; her attention to detail, vivid description, and strong characterization are all in this book, too.-Carol Clark, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An overwrought and often contrived tale with one too many characters named after food. When elderly widow Françoise Simon returns to the sleepy village on the Loire where she grew up, she's grateful that no one recognizes her after all these years as Framboise Dartigen, daughter of a woman suspected of collaboration during WWII. Framboise sets up a small crêperie and keeps her silence, whiling away the time by studying the immense scrapbook her mother, Mirabelle, left to her. This crumbling but fascinating volume is crammed with recipes, clippings, and handwritten notes in a peculiar code, which she gradually deciphers. Framboise is forced to relive her own central role in the long-ago scandal as the youngest of three children who eagerly take small luxuries like chocolate and silk stockings from the occupying German soldiers, offering in exchange information that can be used to blackmail the villagers. Framboise befriends Tomas Liebniz, youngest and best-looking of the soldiers, and confides her desire to catch Old Mother, an enormous pike lurking in the depths of the Loire. He provides fishing tackle and advice, as well as a means of getting around her disapproving mother. Mirabelle suffers from excruciatingly painful migraines, which can be triggered by the scent of oranges. Tomas gives one to the nasty little girl, who saves the peel and uses its pungent smell to repeatedly incapacitate her mother. Only morphine—now impossible to obtain—eases the pain, and despite her hatred for the Germans who shot and killed her husband, Mirabelle too turns to clever Tomas, who procures it for her. After his accidental death by drowning and a bloody shooting rampage byGerman soldiers, the Dartigens face the wrath of the townsfolk . . . . Harris (Chocolat, 1999) is capable of elegantly sensual writing, but Five Quarters degenerates into melodrama all too soon. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061214608
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/2/2007
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 216,341
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Joanne Harris is the author of seven previous novels—Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Sleep, Pale Sister, and Gentlemen & Players; a short story collection, Jigs & Reels; and two cookbook/memoirs, My French Kitchen and The French Market. Half French and half British, she lives in England.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



When my mother died she left the farm to my brother, Cassis, the fortune in the wine cellar to my sister, Reine-Claude, and to me, the youngest, her album and a two-liter jar containing a single black Périgord truffle, large as a tennis ball, suspended in sunflower oil, that, when uncorked, still releases the rich dank perfume of the forest floor. A fairly unequal distribution of riches, but then Mother was a force of nature, bestowing her favors as she pleased, leaving no insight as to the workings of her peculiar logic.

And as Cassis always said, I was the favorite.

Not that she ever showed it when she was alive. For my mother there was never much time for indulgence, even if she'd been the type. Not with her husband killed in the war, and the farm to run alone. Far from being a comfort to her widowhood, we were a hindrance to her with our noisy games, our fights, our quarrels. If we fell ill she would care for us with reluctant tenderness, as if calculating the cost of our survival, and what love she showed took the most elementary forms: cooking pots to lick, jam pans to scrape, a handful of wild strawberries collected from the straggling border behind the vegetable patch and delivered without a smile in a twist of handkerchief. Cassis would be the man of the family. She showed even less softness toward him than to the rest of us. Reinette was already turning heads before she reached her teens, and my mother was vain enough to feel pride at the attention she received. But I was the extra mouth, no second son to expand the farm, certainly no beauty.

I was always the troublesome one, the discordant one, and after myfather died I became sullen and defiant. Skinny and dark like my mother, with her long graceless hands and flat feet, her wide mouth, I must have reminded her too much of herself, for there was often a tightness at her mouth when she looked at me, a kind of stoic appraisal, of fatalism. As if she foresaw that it was I, not Cassis or Reine-Claude, who would carry her memory forward. As if she would have preferred a more fitting vessel.

Perhaps that was why she gave me the album, valueless then except for the thoughts and insights jotted in the margins alongside recipes and newspaper cuttings and herbal cures. Not a diary, precisely. There are almost no dates in the album, no precise order. Pages were inserted into it at random, loose leaves later bound together with small, obsessive stitches, some pages thin as onionskin, others cut from pieces of card trimmed to fit inside the battered leather cover. My mother marked the events of her life with recipes, dishes of her own invention or interpretations of old favorites. Food was her nostalgia, her celebration, its nurture and preparation the sole outlet for her creativity. The first page is given to my father's death -- the ribbon of his Légion d'Honneur pasted thickly to the paper beneath a blurry photograph and a neat recipe for black buckwheat pancakes -- and carries a kind of gruesome humor. Under the picture my mother has penciled Remember -- dig up Jerusalem artichokes. Ha! Ha! Ha! in red.

In other places she is more garrulous, but with many abbreviations and cryptic references. I recognize some of the incidents to which she refers. Others are twisted to suit the moment's needs. Still others seem to be complete inventions, lies, impossibilities. In many places there are blocks of tiny script in a language I cannot understand. Ini tnawini inoti plainexini. Ini nacini inton inraebi inti ynani eromni. Sometimes a single word, scrawled across the top or side of the page seemingly at random. On one page, seesaw in blue ink, on another, wintergreen, rapscallion, ornament in orange crayon. On another, what might be a poem, though I never saw her open any book other than one of recipes. It reads:

This sweetness
scooped
like some bright fruit
plum peach apricot
watermelon perhaps
from myself
this sweetness

It is a whimsical touch, which surprises and troubles me. That this stony and prosaic woman should in her secret moments harbor such thoughts. For she was sealed off from us -- from everyone -- with such fierceness that I had thought her incapable of yielding.

I never saw her cry. She rarely smiled, and then only in the kitchen with her palette of flavors at her fingertips, talking to herself (so I thought) in the same toneless mutter, enunciating the names of herbs and spices -- cinnamon, thyme, peppermint, coriander, saffron, basil, lovage -- running a monotonous commentary. See the tile. Has to be the right heat. Too low, the pancake is soggy. Too high, the butter fries black, smokes, the pancake crisps. I understood later that she was trying to educate me. I listened because I saw in our kitchen seminars the one way in which I might win a little of her approval, and because every good war needs the occasional amnesty. Country recipes from her native Brittany were her favorites; the buckwheat pancakes we ate with everything, the far breton and kouign amann and galette bretonne that we sold in downriver Angers with our goat's cheeses and our sausage and fruit.

She always meant Cassis to have the farm. But Cassis was the first to leave, casually defiant, for Paris, breaking all contact except for his signature on a card every Christmas, and when she died, thirty years on, there was nothing to interest him in a half-derelict farmhouse on the Loire. I bought it from him with my own savings, my widow money, and at a good price too, but it was a fair deal, and he was happy enough to make it then. He understood the need to keep the place in the family.

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Reading Group Guide

When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous Mirabelle Dartigen -- the woman they still hold responsible for the terrible tragedy that took place during the German occupation decades before. Although Framboise hopes for a new beginning, she quickly discovers that past and present are inextricably intertwined. Nowhere is this truth more apparent than in the scrapbook of recipes she has inherited from her dead mother. Using this book, Framboise recreates her mother's dishes, which she serves in her small creperie. And yet as she studies the scrapbook -- searching for clues to unlock the contradiction between her mother's sensuous love of food and often cruel demeanor -- she begins to recognize a deeper meaning behind Mirabelle's cryptic scribblings. Within the journal's tattered pages lies the key to what actually transpired the summer Framboise was nine years old, when the Germans occupied their town. Rich and dark, Five Quarters of the Orange is a novel of mothers and daughters, of the past and the present, of resisting and succumbing. Discussion Questions
  • Framboise's mother loved all fruit -- except for oranges, which gave her migraines. Young Framboise exploited this to her advantage. Discuss Framboise's motivations. Was she cruel, or just acting on the impulses that often drive adolescents to commit cruel acts?
  • How did you feel about the children's involvement with Tomas? Were they morally deficient? Do you think that the author judged the children's actions anywhere in the narrative? Discuss how the presence -- or lack -- of judgementaffected the tone of the novel.
  • How is the title, Five Quarters of the Orange, manifested in the structure of the novel?
  • What do you think Old Mother symbolized? When Framboise finally caught Old Mother, what did she lose?
  • Why do you think Framboise returned to Les Laveuses? Was there a part of her that wanted the truth revealed?
  • "Food was her nostalgia, her celebration, its nurture and preparation the sole outlet for her creativity" (pg 4). Framboise said this about her mother's relationship with food. Discuss the many different roles food plays in Framboise's life.
  • How did you feel about the mixture of love and animosity that Framboise and Mirabelle feel for each other? And what about the relationship between Framboise and her own daughter? What do you think the novel says about mothers and daughters in general? About the Author: Joanne Harris is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, and Chocolat, which was nominated for the Whitbread Award, one of Britain's most prestigious literary prizes. Half French and half British, Harris lives in England.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 67 )
Rating Distribution

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(26)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 67 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2002

    Read on a full stomach

    Harris has done it again--pulled some extraordinary writing out of ordinary lives during WW II German occupation of France. "Boise" is just 9 years old, but wise in some ways, childish in others as she tells the story of a mother hindered by migraines which can be triggered by the smell of oranges. (The recipes tucked into the story make your stomach growl!) The child dreams of catching the monster pike that lives in the river and devices some devilish means to catch the big one! But in so doing, tragedy occurs, again! Harris' characters come alive in full color; she can craft a delicious story. This is a real page-turner.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2002

    Surprisingly Wonderful

    My husband bought me this book and I kept it on the shelf until I ran out of other books to read. Shame one me....this was surprisingly wonderful. All of the characters were wonderful. I enjoy books where characters are both good and bad....just like the real world. I could empathize with all of the characters and why they did the good things and bad things. It also has a twist that makes you want more....even when it's over.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2002

    Another sensual title!

    She's done it again, but this time a little darker. Readers expecting the same fairytale quality as Chocolate might be initially disappointed, but as they read on they find that Harris challenges and surprises them with a tale rich in layers and satisfaction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2001

    LYRIC DESCRIPTIONS AND A MESMERIZING TALE

    While her debut novel, Chocolat (1999), was delicious and followed by the ripely seductive Blackberry Wine (2000), Joanne Harris's third offering, 'Five Quarters Of The Orange,' is bittersweet and tangy. When 65-year-old Framboise Simon returns to the small French village of her birth she is unrecognized by the townspeople who a half century earlier, during the German occupation, had branded her family as ignoble traitors. With a menu composed largely of her mother's old recipes, Framboise open a small café. These recipes have been kept in an album, the repository of many memories and thoughts. When the café becomes popular and is discovered by a food writer, Framboise's brother, Cassis, appears on the scene with his son and daughter-in-law in tow. They want the album the mother, Mirabelle, kept so they can produce a cookbook, and profit by making public secrets long hidden in the family's past. As a child Framboise had been befriended by a young Nazi, Tomas Leibniz. The confused girl had been swayed by his attention, and lavish gifts. Was it so easy to almost unknowingly become an informer? The album will eventually reveal a trove of untruths and deceptions. Ms. Harris once again dots her narrative with lyric descriptions of the French countryside as she weaves a mesmerizing tale.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    A little strange, but interesting

    I read this book because it is on our High School's reading list. Even though my son graduated I am interested in seeing what they recommend kids read. I picked this one because I like historical fiction.

    It is an interesting story, flipping back and forth in time from the present day to WWII France. It presents a very different view of the war from occupied France than I have read before. And yes, it is a bit strange, but interesting. The war and occupation are told through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl, which is an unusual point of view.

    This isn't one of my top 10 favorite books, but definitely made me think a bit. Good poolside or beach reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2012

    A field of dens

    I field of fox dens surround the woods about 20

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2012

    Loved this

    *

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    Dark and depressing. I read all the great reviews and so I was e

    Dark and depressing. I read all the great reviews and so I was expecting to really enjoy this book but it just didn't work for me.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    Read a chapter or two then decide if it's worth continuing.

    My book club read it in June. It was interesting but I found the ending flat. I was unable to attend the meeting so am unsure what the others thought.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2012

    Beautifully written

    I would highly recommend this book. It is a sad but intriguing story and beautifully written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    a favorite among many

    Joanne Harris is one of my favorite authors and I find this book to be one of her best- most interesting.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    Beware - not a happy story

    This is the first book I have read my Joanne Harris, though like most, I saw the film, "Chocolat," which I enjoyed very much. While the plot seems interesting enough: three children being raised on a farm in Normandy by their mentally unbalance mother during the beginning of the German Occupation of France, this is a dark story. Ms. Harris writes in a kind of lyrical style, but it took my reading the first 130 pages before anything really began to happen. While I am aware this book is very popular, it really never took off for me. There were no happy endings, really. The characters were pretty depressing and I am sorry to admit it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2010

    Interesting tale

    Interesting tale, enjoyed the characters. Showed a good insight into life during World War Two.

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  • Posted May 23, 2009

    Good read

    Enjoyed the book. It was a tragic story in many ways. How the yound "Boise" treated her Mother was unnerving. Harris made the characters so real. It made you think how hard it was to be a child during the German occupation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2008

    odd but engrossing

    Good read. Sometimes hard to root for the main character but I love the setting of the French countryside and small village. The author makes it come alive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2008

    A great read

    Joanne Harris never dissapoints and this complex, and admittedly sometimes slow novel, delivers with a twist at the end. I really enjoyed it as I did Gentlemen and Players.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2008

    Not outstanding

    The writing was beautifully lyrical, however the story itself was rather unsettling primarily because of Boise's (a 9 year-old's) unprovoked actions toward her sick mother. In addition, some of the other subject matter was a little too raw and seemed to lack emotional balance. Not my favorite.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2006

    I hated there was a final page...

    This is, to date, my all time favorite fiction. I have fallen for so many other great reads in the in between, but this fiction breaks my heart each time. Rich story telling, tragic characters, a hidden secret whispered amongst the village, a bit of madness, and all backdropped against a rural french community that has wounds it can not speak of with complete honesty. Harris masters her storytelling with this book unlike any other. I was locked in after the first page (just read the first page) and was so disappointed the story had to come to an end. Although it did, I felt I too carried the the memories the character carried and understood the secrets they couldn't tell as if they were my own. Wonderful, warm, dark and a page turner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2006

    Disappointed

    I am not really sure what went wrong with this book. Seemingly, it was all there. The plot was strong (French children caught up in trading information to Germans during the occupation of WWII). The characters were sort of interesting. There is Boise who has a childish fixation on one of the officers, a mean, hard mother with migraines who is addicted to morphine, and Paul who is a neighbor boy who stammers. (He is the one redeeming character in the book who I actually felt a connection with) The point of view was nicely contrasted from child to adult...but something went wrong. It failed to hold my attention when it should have. Throughout the book, Boise tries to catch a pike that supposedly causes bad luck. When she finally catches it, it is indeed the worst luck. (Predictable and contrived.)I did not really care about the future of the characters, nothing held me like it should have. Frankly,it was hollow. I was glad it was over so I could move on to something else.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2004

    sensual and intriguing

    I liked this book. I loved 'Chocolat' and I am looking forward to reading Blackberry wine. Harris writes differently, the vein of culinary sensory magic gets ones tastebuds invloved in the process of reading and devouring the words....its a refreshing change

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