The Lollipop Shoes

The Lollipop Shoes

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by Joanne Harris
     
 

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Since she was a little girl, the wind has dictated every move Vianne Rocher has made, buffeting her from the small French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes to the crowded streets of Paris. Cloaked in a new identity, that of widow Yanne Charbonneau, she opens a chocolaterie on a small Montmartre street, determined to still the wind at last and keep her daughters,

Overview

Since she was a little girl, the wind has dictated every move Vianne Rocher has made, buffeting her from the small French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes to the crowded streets of Paris. Cloaked in a new identity, that of widow Yanne Charbonneau, she opens a chocolaterie on a small Montmartre street, determined to still the wind at last and keep her daughters, Anouk and baby Rosette, safe.

Her new home above the chocolate shop offers calm and quiet; no red sachets by the door; no sparks of magic fill the air. Conformity brings with it anonymity—and peace. There is even Thierry, the stolid businessman who wants to care for Yanne and the children. On the cusp of adolescence, an increasingly rebellious Anouk does not understand. But soon the weathervane turns . . . and into their lives blows the charming, enigmatic—and devious—Zozie de l'Alba. And everything begins to change.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is Harris’s best novel to date.” —Financial Times

Chocolat was a hard act to follow but Harris has managed it in style.” —Daily Express

“One of Britain’s most popular novelists.” —Daily Mail

“She is so terrific, she can write about anywhere, anything, anyone.” —Daily Telegraph

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385609487
Publisher:
Transworld Publishers Limited
Publication date:
06/05/2007
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

Wednesday, 31 October
Día de los Muertos

It is a relatively little-known fact that, over the course of a single year, about twenty million letters are delivered to the dead. People forget to stop the mail – those grieving widows and prospective heirs – and so magazine subscriptions remain uncancelled; distant friends unnotified; library fines unpaid. That’s twenty million circulars, bank statements, credit cards, love letters, junk mail, greetings, gossip and bills, dropping daily on to doormats or parquet floors, thrust casually through railings, wedged into letter-boxes, accumulating in stairwells, left unwanted on porches and steps, never to reach their addressee. The dead don’t care. More importantly, neither do the living. The living just follow their petty concerns, quite unaware that very close by, a miracle is taking place. The dead are coming back to life.

It doesn’t take much to raise the dead. A couple of bills; a name; a postcode; nothing that can’t be found in any old domestic bin-bag, torn apart (perhaps by foxes) and left on the doorstep like a gift. You can learn a lot from abandoned mail: names, bank details, passwords, e-mail addresses, security codes. With the right combination of personal details you can open up a bank account; hire a car; even apply for a new passport. The dead don’t need such things any more. A gift, as I said, just waiting for collection.

Sometimes Fate even delivers in person, and it always pays to be alert. Carpe diem, and devil take the hindmost. Which is why I always read the obituaries, sometimes managing to acquire the identity even before the funeral has taken place. And which is why, when I saw the sign, and beneath it the post-box with its packet of letters, I accepted the gift with a gracious smile.
Of course, it wasn’t my post-box. The postal service here is better than most, and letters are rarely misdelivered. It’s one more reason I prefer Paris; that and the food, the wine, the theatres, the shops and the virtually unlimited opportunities. But Paris costs – the overheads are extraordinary – and besides, I’d been itching for some time to reinvent myself again. I’d been playing it safe for nearly two months, teaching in a lycée in the 11th arrondissement, but in the wake of the recent troubles there I’d decided at last to make a clean break (taking with me twenty-five thousand euros’ worth of departmental funds, to be delivered into an account opened in the name of an ex-colleague and to be removed discreetly, over a couple of weeks), and had a look at apartments to rent.

First, I tried the Left Bank. The properties there were out of my league; but the girl from the agency didn’t know that. So, with an English accent and going by the name of Emma Windsor, with my Mulberry handbag tucked negligently into the crook of my arm and the delicious whisper of Prada around my silk-stockinged calves, I was able to spend a pleasant morning window-shopping.
I’d asked to view only empty properties. There were several along the Left Bank: deep-roomed apartments overlooking the river; mansion flats with roof gardens; penthouses with parquet floors.
With some regret, I rejected them all, though I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of useful items on the way. A magazine, still in its wrapper, containing the customer number of its intended recipient; several circulars; and at one place, gold: a banker’s card in the name of Amélie Deauxville, which needs nothing but a phone call for me to activate.

I left the girl my mobile number. The phone account belongs to Noëlle Marcelin, whose identity I acquired some months ago. Her payments are quite up to date – the poor woman died last year, aged ninety-four – but it means that anyone tracing my calls will have some difficulty finding me. My internet account, too, is in her name, and remains fully paid-up. Noëlle is too precious for me to lose. But she will never be my main identity. For a start, I don’t want to be ninetyfour. And I’m tired of getting all those advertisements for stair-lifts.

My last public persona was Françoise Lavery, a teacher of English at the Lycée Rousseau in the 11th. Age thirty-two; born in Nantes; married and widowed in the same year to Raoul Lavery, killed in a car crash on the eve of the anniversary – a rather romantic touch, I thought, that explained her faint air of melancholy. A strict vegetarian, rather shy, diligent, but not talented enough to be a threat. All in all, a nice girl – which just goes to show you should never judge by appearances.
Today, however, I’m someone else. Twenty-five thousand euros is no small sum, and there’s always the chance that someone will begin to suspect the truth. Most people don’t – most people wouldn’t notice a crime if it was going on right in front of them – but I haven’t got this far by taking risks, and I’ve found that it’s safer to stay on the move.

So I travel light – a battered leather case and a Sony laptop containing the makings of over a hundred possible identities – and I can be packed, cleaned out, all traces gone in rather less than an afternoon.

That’s how Françoise disappeared. I burnt her papers, correspondence, bank details, notes. I closed all accounts in her name. Books, clothes, furniture and the rest, I gave to the Croix Rouge. It never pays to gather moss.

After that I needed to find myself anew. I booked into a cheap hotel, paid on Amélie’s credit card, changed out of Emma’s clothes and went shopping.

Françoise was a dowdy type; sensible heels and neat chignons. My new persona, however, has a different style. Zozie de l’Alba is her name – she is vaguely foreign, though you might be hard pressed to tell her country of origin. She’s as flamboyant as Françoise was not – wears costume jewellery in her hair; loves bright colours and frivolous shapes; favours bazaars and vintage shops, and would never be seen dead in sensible shoes.

The change was neatly executed. I entered a shop as Françoise Lavery, in a grey twinset and a string of fake pearls. Ten minutes later, I left as someone else.

The problem remains: where to go? The Left Bank, though tempting, is out of the question, though I believe Amélie Deauxville may be good for a few thousand more before I have to ditch her. I have other sources, too, of course, not including my most recent – Madame Beauchamp, the secretary in charge of departmental finances at my erstwhile place of work.

It’s so easy to open a credit account. A couple of spent utility bills; even an old driving licence can be enough. And with the rise of online purchasing, the possibilities are expanding on a daily basis.
But my needs extend to far, far more than a source of income. Boredom appals me. I need more. Scope for my abilities, adventure, a challenge, a change.

A life.

And that’s what Fate delivered to me, as if by accident this windy late-October morning in Montmartre, as I glanced into a shop window and saw the neat little sign taped to the door:
Fermé pour cause de décès.

It’s been some time since I last came here. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Montmartre is the last village in Paris, they say, and this part of the Butte is almost a parody of rural France, with its cafés and little crêperies; its houses painted pink or pistachio, fake shutters at the windows, and geraniums on every window-ledge; all very consciously picturesque, a movie-set miniature of counterfeit charm that barely hides its heart of stone.

Perhaps that’s why I like it so much. It’s a perfect setting for Zozie de l’Alba. And I found myself there almost by chance; stopped in a square behind the Sacré-Coeur; bought a café-croissant at a bar called Le P’tit Pinson and sat down at a table on the street.

A blue tin plate high up on the corner gave the name of the square as Place des Faux-Monnayeurs. A tight little square like a neatly made bed. A café, a crêperie, a couple of shops. Nothing more. Not even a tree to soften those edges. But then for some reason, a shop caught my eye – some kind of a chichi confiserie, I thought, though the sign above the door was blank. The blind was half-drawn, but from where I was sitting I could just see the display in the window, and the bright-blue door like a panel of sky. A small, repetitive sound crossed the square; a bundle of wind-chimes hanging above the door, sending out little random notes like signals in the air.

Why did it draw me? I couldn’t say. There are so many of these little shops along the warren of streets leading up the Butte de Montmartre, slouching on the cobbled corners like weary penitents. Narrowfronted and crook-backed, they are often damp at street level, cost a fortune to rent and rely mainly on the stupidity of tourists for their continued existence.

The rooms above them are rarely any better. Small, sparse and inconvenient; noisy at night, when the city below comes to life; cold in winter, and most likely unbearable in summer, when the sun presses down on the heavy stone slates and the only window, a skylight not eight inches wide, lets in nothing but the stifling heat.

And yet – something there had caught my interest. Perhaps the letters, poking out from the metal jaws of the post-box like a sly tongue. Perhaps the fugitive scent of nutmeg and vanilla (or was that just the damp?) that filtered from beneath the sky-blue door. Perhaps the wind, flirting with the hem of my skirt, teasing the chimes above the door. Or perhaps the notice – neat, hand-lettered – with its unspoken, tantalizing potential.

Closed due to bereavement.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Joanne Harris is the author of the Whitbread-short-listed Chocolat (made into a major film starring Juliette Binoche), Blackberry Wine; Five Quarters of the Orange; Coastliners; Holy Fools; Sleep Pale Sister; Jigs & Reels; Gentlemen & Players; and, with Fran Warde, The French Kitchen: A Cookbook; and The French Market: More Recipes from a French Kitchen.

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The Lollipop Shoes 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Was amassed to find that this titled Book was retilted "The Girl With No Shadow"
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