Chocolat: A Novel

Chocolat: A Novel

by Joanne Harris

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101199947
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/01/2000
Series: A Vianne Rocher Novel , #1
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 130,766
File size: 564 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Joanne Harris is the author of the Whitbread Award-nominated Chocolat (made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp) and eleven other bestselling novels. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was sixteen, is currently studying Old Norse and lives with her husband and daughter in Yorkshire, England.

Read an Excerpt

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 hot 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. There is a febrile excitement in the crowds that line the narrow main street, necks craning to catch sight of the crêpe-covered char with its trailing ribbons and paper rosettes. Anouk watches, eyes wide, a yellow balloon in one hand and a toy trumpet in the other, from between a shopping basket and a sad brown dog. We have seen carnivals before, she and I; a procession of two hundred and fifty of the decorated chars in Paris last Mardi Gras, a hundred and eighty in New York, two dozen marching bands in Vienna, clowns on stilts, the Grosses Têtes with their lolling papier-mâché heads, drum majorettes with batons spinning and sparkling. But at six the world retains a special luster. A wooden cart, hastily decorated with gilt and crêpe and scenes from fairy tales. A dragon's head on a shield, Rapunzel in a woolen wig, a mermaid with a cellophane tail, a gingerbread house all icing and gilded cardboard, a witch in the doorway, waggling extravagant green fingernails at a group of silent children. ... At six it is possible to perceive subtleties that a year later are already out of reach. Behind the papier-mâché, the icing, the plastic, she can still see the real witch, the real magic. She looks up at me, her eyes, which are the blue-green of Earth seen from a great height, shining.

Reading Group Guide

When the exotic stranger Vianne Rocher arrives in the old French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique called "La Celeste Praline" directly across the square from the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock. It is the beginning of Lent: the traditional season of self-denial. The priest says she'll be out of business by Easter.

To make matters worse, Vianne does not go to church and has a penchant for superstition. Like her mother, she can read Tarot cards. But she begins to win over customers with her smiles, her intuition for everyone's favourites, and her delightful confections. Her shop provides a place, too, for secrets to be whispered, grievances aired. She begins to shake up the rigid morality of the community. Vianne's plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate éclair?

For the first time, here is a novel in which chocolate enjoys its true importance, emerging as an agent of transformation. Rich, clever, and mischievous, reminiscent of a folk tale or fable, this is a triumphant read with a memorable character at its heart.

Says Harris: "You might see [Vianne] as an archetype or a mythical figure. I prefer to see her as the lone gunslinger who blows into the town, has a showdown with the man in the black hat, then moves on relentless. But on another level she is a perfectly real person with real insecurities and a very human desire for love and acceptance. Her qualities too -- kindness, love, tolerance -- are very human." Vianne and her young daughter Anouk, come into town on Shrove Tuesday. "Carnivals make us uneasy," saysHarris, "because of what they represent: the residual memory of blood sacrifice (it is after all from the word "carne" that the term arises), of pagan celebration. And they represent a loss of inhibition; carnival time is a time at which almost anything is possible."

The book became an international best-seller, and was optioned to film quickly. The Oscar-nominated movie, with its star-studded cast including Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) and Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, whose previous film The Cider House Rules (based on a John Irving novel) also looks at issues of community and moral standards, though in a less lighthearted vein.

The idea for the book came from a comment her husband made one day while he was immersed in a football game on TV. "It was a throwaway comment, designed to annoy and it did. It was along the lines of...Chocolate is to women what football is to men..." The idea stuck, and Harris began thinking that "people have these conflicting feelings about chocolate, and that a lot of people who have very little else in common relate to chocolate in more or less the same kind of way. It became a kind of challenge to see exactly how much of a story I could get which was uniquely centred around chocolate."

Other Books

Five Quarters of the Orange
Blackberry Wine

Sleep, Pale Sister
The Evil Seed

Suggested Reading

John Allemang The Importance of Lunch
Peter Mayle A Year in Provence; Encore Provence
Patrick Süskind Perfume
Jeannette Winterson Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

1. To what extent is Reynaud the villain of the piece? Is it possible to understand or sympathize with the motivations and feelings behind his actions?

2. Reynaud and Vianne seem to be natural enemies from the start, and yet they both have significant elements in common: a haunted past, a desire for acceptance. How do you think this affects their relationship?

3. The preparation and eating of food is decribed in detail in many parts of the book. What is the significance of this, and what do the attitudes of the main characters towards food show about their personalities?

4. The author uses the first-person narrative voice for both of her principal characters. Why do you feel she does this, and how effective is each in showing the character's attitudes and motivations?

5. Vianne appears to other people as a strong and confident woman, but is secretly filled with fears and insecurities. To what extent do you think she has been strengthened or damaged by her relationship with her bohemian mother?

6. The themes of moving on and settling down recur frequently in the book. Why do you think Vianne wants so badly to remain in the village? Do you think she eventually decides to stay?

Customer Reviews

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Chocolat 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
HallelujahLC More than 1 year ago
Chocolat is a very well written story, and it paints a clear picture in your mind. The characters and the plot are put together beautifully. It's thought provoking. It's wonderful. It's a great book. But.... The book is almost always better than the movie. Almost. There has never been a time in my life when I have found a movie better than it's book. I think I just found an exception. For example: Roux and Vienne's relationship. In the movie, it was perfect. In the book.....it was a one night stand. Where was the magic? Where was the beauty? Where was the love? Uggh! That really disappointed me. Maybe in the next book, they will redeem themselves, but until then.... Also, in the movie, there's more drama. Not so much that it's ridiculous, but enough to make you reach out to the characters. Like in the boat scene. While watching the movie, I really felt for Vienne, and was genuinely scared for Anouk. It made the characters more real. But in the book, they didn't have as much of that. I'll give Joanne props for Charly and Guillame, but as for everyone else...I don't know. It just didn't have as much as an impact on me as the movie. But hey, don't let me curve you're thinking. The book beautifully crafted. There was a lot of thought and creativity that went into it. And without it, I wouldn't have an amazing movie to compare it to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Delicious. Scrumptuous. Succulent. Tantalizing. Intoxicating. C'est tres magnifique!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you saw the movie first, it's OK. You will be enchanted reading this lovely fable. You will also find you have to get up presently, make a good cup of coffee and get a piece of that chocolate you were trying to forget. Just forget about forgetting chocolate for now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Chocolat was simply amazing. The characters all have such allure and sophistication, even the antagonists! I absolutely adored this book. Do yourself a favor and read it, you won't be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book and film are so alike. The story is so charming. The kind of story that leaves you all fuzzy and warm inside :-D
smik on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Vianne Rocher, with her small daughter Anouk, arrives at a small French village on a festival day leading up to Christmas. She decides to stay and sets up a chocolaterie in the square directly opposite the church. As Lent approaches the village priest identifies her as a corrupting influence, confirmed in his mind when Vianne decides to have an Easter Chocolate Festival. Is this a mystery book? - some would say not - but there is plenty of mystery, even an old case of murder - and who is the old priest in a coma whom Father Reynaud visits on such a regular basis? Is Vianne herself who she thinks she is? Beautifully read by Juliet stevenson - a BBC Audiobook on 8 CDs
smalltownanimal on LibraryThing 10 months ago
A compelling story about temptation, fear, and contentment. Joanne Harris' mysterious, amusing, and dynamic characters left me hanging at the end of every chapter!
jbrubacher on LibraryThing 10 months ago
A woman arrives in a French village, opens a chocolaterie, and catalyzes change that uproots the day-to-day for everyone. I've seen and enjoyed the film. But it had translated the magic of the book into something bite-sized. The book itself has layers that are uncontainable, an ending that's loose and ambiguous, and the whole thing is darker, more impressive, more tangible, and less tidy. It's about the richness of chocolate and of human relationships, the definition of sin-- if sin exists-- and the monsters we bring with us, no matter where we go. Quite a book. Definitely recommended.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This little gem has been around for awhile, so I¿m glad I finally picked it up. Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk have spent their lives on the move. They flit from town to town, never staying in one place for too long. When they stumble upon a festival in a small French town and decide to stay for awhile. They open a Chocolate shop in the middle of Lent season, which makes them the focus of the local priest¿s ire. The novel is so charming that you can¿t help being swept away by the magic in it. There are some amazing characters each of whom made the book worth reading. There¿s Roux, the local gypsy who is hardworking, but can¿t let go of his pride. Lovely Josephine Muscat whose spirit has been broken by her cruel husband; her transformation is one of the most beautiful aspects of the story. The strange, cruel priest Reynaud makes an interesting villain for the story. A sweet elderly man Guillaume and his dog Charly are regulars at the shop. Then there is my favorite, Armande, a strong-willed woman with a sharp wit and a soft spot for her grandson Luc. In addition to wonderful characters there¿s some meat to the story. It touches on the relationship between religion and community. It looks at spousal abuse, care for the elderly, prejudice between different groups of people and more. It held just the right balance of these elements and great storytelling for me. BOTTOM LINE: I really loved the story and I felt so connected to the characters. Plus the descriptions of the small provincial village and the chocolate treats were mouth-watering. It made me want to hope in a plane to France and visit a chocolate shop. I liked the pieces from the priest¿s POV the least, but overall I was a big fan. p.s. This is a rare case where I think I enjoyed the movie as much as the book. I actually saw it first, but even when I compared the two I still think it holds up well. ¿Politics, music, chess, religion, rugby, poetry ¿ they swoop and segue from one topic to another like gourmets at a buffet who cannot bear to leave any dish untasted.¿ ¿Josephine looked doubtful, `I don¿t see how anyone can celebrate dying,¿ she said at last.`You don¿t,¿ I told her. `Life is what you celebrate. All of it. Even it¿s end.¿¿¿¿she put her face against the counter, and cried silently. I let her. I didn¿t say it would be okay. I made no effort to comfort her. Sometimes it¿s better to leave things as they are, to let grief take its course.¿
lepapillonvert on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The book that inspired the movie, Chocolat speaks to those who have ever wondered where they fit in and if their passion and joy for life really makes a difference. I loved the book and the movie.
neverlistless on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I've seen the movie probably about 5 times. I tend to watch it on days when I've called out sick and just want to curl up on the couch or in bed and be carried away. This book brought the same kind of comfort, but ten-fold. Of course, the book is slightly different than the movie in little ways. The biggest (and most interesting to me) is the way the priest is protrayed in the movie - a clumsy, awkward, and naive newbie - and the "villain" is the town mayor (or the French equivalent). This is not the case in the book. In Harris' original version there is no mayor, and the priest is the "villain." I can only assume that Hollywood made those changes to avoid controversy and I find it interesting (and a bit amusing). It was wonderful to get some back story on Vianne and Anouk - we learn about Vianne's mother and a slight mystery concerning the truth regarding that. And let me tell you, this past week I've craved more chocolate than ever before!I read in some thread on LT that someone thought that the movie was set in the past, but this book surely hints that it is present day. However, I think the movie might cause us to go astray, because Guillame is smitten for the mourning widow, who lost her husband during the war. Vianne says but the war was 20 years ago, and Guillame responds with "no, the first war." Which I was thinking made the movie set in the 60s? I'm not too sure (my history and math skills are a bit sketchy).All in all - this is a wonderful book!
MoniqueReads on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Chocolat is written like a fairly tale. The writing is very fluid, lyrical and romantic. Written in first person, the story is told through the view points of two very different, yet similar people. Vianne is a drifter, has been a drifter all her life. Since childhood her and her mother have traveled from place to place never settling in one stop. Now an adult she is repeating the same patterns set by her mother. Reynaud is a country priest in the town that Vianne had decided to settle, at least for the moment. Reynaud is a local boy and worry of outsiders.Early in the story Harris sets up the tense and animosity between Reynaud and Vianne. Vianne since that Reynaud sees her as a threat and worries what pain he will inflect on her and her called. Reynaud sees Vianne and her daughter as sinners, sent to wreck havoc on his congregation. Its and interesting battle, Reynaud takes it more seriously than Vianne. Yet, the reader can feel the struggle of between the characters. Reynaud's frustration has citizens of Lansquenet welcome Viannee and her chocolate shop into there community is almost tangible. His struggle with setting an example by being pleasant but wanting to protect his sense of tradition are strong. Vianne, on the other hand, is struggling with her past and the hopes for her child's future. She can't decide if Reynaud is an actually threat or rather a manifestation of past worries and insecurity. Readers get to see how Vianne's personality and ability to understand people draw people into her show and how bonds between her and the town are formed. Vianne and her daughter, Anouk, are very likable characters. There bond is nice written and portrayed in the story.Chocolat, has been made into a movie and the books has a different feel. The movie (if I remember correctly) is more of a love story. The book is not a love story, its a story about change. Yet, like the movie it has a very whimsical feel. Harris does a good job of illustrating Vianne and Anouk gifts without making the story overly exaggerated. The fantasy magical aspect seems like a part of the story without making the story see make believe.The one thing that this story lacks is a climax that does the story justice. The climax in the story is very lackluster. It almost came and went. The story was set up for this final battle between Reynaud and Vianne but that never manifested.Pros: Writing, Characters, PlotCons: ClimaxOverall Recommendation:Chocolat is a good novel. The writing is excellent and the character likable. Highly recommended. But be aware that the movie does not follow the book that closely and if you are looking for a great love story this is not the night novel. Instead, tryLike Water for Chocolate.
mmillet on LibraryThing 11 months ago
When Vianne Rocher and her young daughter arrive in a small, insular French town dressed in red with no husband in sight to set up a chocolate shop the church curate, Francis Reynaud, immediately sees the two a threat to their wholesome values and god-fearing ways. Vianne herself has no interest in religion but she is willing to spread her 'magic' in this small town by enchanting the village children and instinctively knowing what everyone's favorite confection might be. She quickly wins friends with the old and young alike but is mistrusted by pere Reynaud and his Bible groupies. When Vianne decides to host a chocolate festival on Easter Sunday, pere Reynaud finds her audacity insulting and begins a battle with the lively chocolatier that will forever change their small town.This rich narrative alternates between Vianne and pere Reyaund's point of view with devastating results: all beauty, goodness, and even evil is laid bare for the reader to see. Vianne is competely open concerning all things in her past - the good and bad - she is funny, loving, and so magical. I was constantly lost in her decadent descriptions of her many chocolates. It was just so sensual - but not overtly or oddly so - which became especially obvious any time it switched to Reynaud's narration. Sanctimonious, self righteous and proud, Reynaud was a perfect foil to Vianne brightness and beauty.The movie itself stayed pretty true to the book, but I must say I actually like the movie better. When does that ever happen?? I constantly had an image of Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp as Vianne and Roux while reading this and their characterizations were perfect. Although the book was magical and beautifully written I absolutely HATED the ending. The movie ended so much better. I don't want to spoil anything here: but what was Vianne thinking?!?
sunfi on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The magical story of a small French town, one windy day a new inhabitant arrives and turns the town on its side. She open a chocolate shop that is so much more than that. The descriptive details of the tastes and smells were amazing. I really need to find some fine chocolate for myself now.
davidabrams on LibraryThing 11 months ago
It happens every year like clockwork. Exactly five weeks after the first day of school, my doorbell rings.Standing there on my front porch is an adorable little boy or girl holding a lunchpail-sized cardboard box, its handle soggy with nervous sweat. Stacked inside are bars of chocolate. The little urchin takes a deep breath, stares straight ahead in the region of my navel, and launches into a rehearsed speech: Good-evening-sir-Im-raising-money-for-my-school-by-selling-candy-bars-these-candy-bars-are-called-the-worlds-best-chocolates-would-you-like-to-buy-one-and-help-me-earn-prizes?I smile, pat the tike on the head, and fork over five dollars for one candy bar (anything to help that kid win a Nintendo game system). I peel back the foil wrapping, inhale the cocoa aroma, take a bitethen spit it out. Blech! Its like sinking my teeth into a stick of dietary margarine. Bland, chalky, bittersweetthe five-dollar candy bar isnt worth the calories.I always end up giving the rest of the worlds best chocolate to my daughter, but even she makes those double-blech faces.I tell you this story to give you some idea of how I felt after reading Joanne Harris novel Chocolat. Its got a nice foil wrapping and purports to bear a high literary price tag, but dont be fooledits nothing but empty calories.The story (which, incidentally, is forthcoming as a movie from Miramax Films) is one of those treacly sentimental fables that give all their characters signposts to carry around while cheerleading Big Messages like Everyone has a dream, believe in yours and In the end, good hearts overcome bad people.Chocolat (and, no, Im not forgetting the eits the French spelling of the word) is a magical realism novel which, unfortunately, has little of either. Stick with One Hundred Years of Solitude or that other cocoa-flavored novel, Like Water For Chocolate if thats what youre after.Harris certainly sets up an interesting conflict in her 306-page novel. An unmarried woman, Vianne Rocher, and her six-year-old daughter move to the tiny French town of Lansquenet to open up a chocolate shop. Unfortunately, its the Lenten season and the faithful folks of Lansquenet know they should resist the sinful pleasures of marzipan, candied pralines, truffles and (quelle horreur!) Nipples of Venus.But the townspeople can resist neither the charms of Vianne Rocher nor her sensuously good confections. It soon turns into a sweet holy war: Church vs. Chocolate. To the consternation of the parish priest, Pere Reynaud, the chocolate shop becomes a hubbub of activitya place for gossips to congregate and a refuge for those seeking shelter from the cruelties of other cold-hearted citizens.When the earthy, free-spirited Vianne decides to hold a pagan Chocolate Festival on Easter Day, the righteous indignation of Pere Reynaud is whipped to a creamy frenzy. Vianne claims she does nothing more than sell dreams, small comforts, sweet harmless temptations. To the priest, however, the idea of a chocolate shop setting up business during the traditional season of self-denial is deliberately perverse. Pere Reynaud, it seems, has some definite sweet-tooth issues he needs to work out in therapy (or confession).Did I mention that the chocolaterie is located directly across the town square from the church? Subtlety is not Harris strong suit.What does work best in the novel is Harris ability to deliver rich, nougaty descriptions of the chocolate-making process. The authors biography mentions the fact that she was raised in a sweetshop similar to the one here. She does a marvelous job of recreating the smells and tastes of warm chocolate. Heres one instance, describing a particularly ornate window display:It is an amazement of riches, glace fruits and marzipan flowers and mountains of loose chocolates of all shapes and colors, and rabbits, ducks, hens, chicks, lambs, gazing out at me with merry-grave chocolate eyes like the terra-cotta armies of ancient China, and above it all a statue of a woman, g
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing 11 months ago
For most of the length of the book, this is a delicious confection. I loved the language, the style, the lushness of this book as a sensory experience. On Mardi Gras day of 1997, wanderer Vianne Rocher and her six-year old daughter Anouk Rocher "came on the wind of the carnival" into the small French village of Lansquenet "of two hundred souls at most." The next day, the beginning of Lent, she's opening a decadent confectioner's shop. The way Harris describes that shop and its wares brings back the magic of childhood but with an overlay of an adult sensuousness and a pagan sensibility. A note says "Joanne Harris, part French and part English, found her inspiration for Chocolat in her own family's history--herself having been born in a sweetshop and being the great-granddaughter of a French woman known locally as a witch." Most of the story is told by Vianne, and it's a lyrical voice and she's a sympathetic character for the most part.I had mixed feelings about the character of her adversary, Cure Francis Reynaud, the priest of St. Jerome's. He also has his say, and there are times I felt a great deal of pity for him. And the climax of the book on Easter Sunday with him among the temptations of the sweetshop I thought almost brilliant. Almost, because it would have been brilliant if he had been developed in a different direction. I think the problem is we learn too much about him I wish Harris had left obscured. I thought that with his secrets Harris took it a bit over the top, made him too....pathological? Too stereotypically anti-clerical? There was plenty in his personality and profession to give impetus to his opposition without adding those elements, and his voice didn't always work for me. This also was graced with a lot of wonderful secondary characters though and some of their stories were most moving in the book. There's 80 year old Armande Voizin, who wants so much to connect with her grandson and to keep her independence. There's Guillaume Duplesis, who loves his little dog more than the priest considers "appropriate." There's Josephine Muscat, who has put up with her abusive husband too long. And above all there's Michel Roux and the other river gypsies. Definitely a very enjoyable and memorable read.
saroz on LibraryThing 11 months ago
"Richly and beautifully written, like the very best of Ray Bradbury. The actual storyline is not terribly unlike the popular film, but while that firmly took place in 1960, the book is set in a charmingly fantastical "no-time" incorporating both modern and vintage details. That's quite nice, as most of the book is really about the conflict between sticking to what is familiar and safe and being willing to change and grow; a lot of that is expressed as a sort of "old ways vs. new ways," so having the time period so indistinct actually complements the themes of the novel. A book, of course, is also more able to spend time with secondary characters, and the inhabitants of the French village come straight to life, either through Vianne's first-person perspective, or the occasional interjected perspective of the local priest. There are no real villains here, only misguided actions and unbending views, and that makes for a really pleasant change. I enjoyed both the book and the film of "Chocolat"; they're similar enough that one is a good adaptation of the other, but different enough to provide you with a very separate audience "experience." Certainly, "Chocolat" the novel has exposed me to the lush work of Joanne Harris, and I can't wait to read more of her books.
SusanBarnard on LibraryThing 11 months ago
"Chocolate - a novel" tells a dark tale of persecution, stubbornness, conformity and vanity in the name of religion, community pride, and personal relationships. The movie version of this story was the basis of a Lenten-themed Sunday sermon by my Pastor. That sermon led me to buy the DVD; the movie led me to buy the book. However, the book is much darker, and the story-line is different than the movie. This story is well told through the novel and the movie as it follows the life of a gypsy-style mother and daughter - just in different tones. I like the movie better - it has some darkness, but is more lighthearted and comes across as a romantic drama/comedy. The book, while well written, is a little too dark for my taste. I think the movie gets the same points across but with less attitude. This book would be a great Book Club selection because of it's darkness; many themes and life choices to discuss. The book stays in my personal library to be re-read on occasion.
hardcastle on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I've always loved the film, so I finally got around to reading the book. Unfortunately, this is one of those extremely rare instances where the movie is better than the book. Joanne Harris has great ideas and an interesting story to tell, but the execution is a little weak. Vianne lets things roll off of her too easily - sort of blasé, a little too detached, removed, boringly carefree - and makes her scenes of inner turmoil or frustration unconvincing. Perhaps it's to contrast with the building insanity of the overbearing Reynaud, but it often just leaves the book's protagonist flat. Harris's execution of the dual narration needs work. At times Vianne and Reynaud's voices melt together - it's hard not to notice things like both characters using unique descriptions, such as "mushroom white." To me, the characters or world simply weren't developed enough to be immersed in the fiction. I never felt entirely like these characters were their own people - they were more Joanne Harris as a priest, Joanne Harris as a chocolatier. The story is fantastic, the character ideas unique, but the execution is weak, which is why Chocolat really flourished on screen, in the hands of actors who bring the characters to their full potentials.
jennyo on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The book was delightful. One of the rare cases where I've seen the movie first. Loved the movie too. Though there were significant differences for those who are picky about that sort of thing, I think the movie totally captured the spirit of the book, and both are worth the time you spend with them. I'll probably read more Harris. My son has a copy of Runemarks lying around here somewhere. Maybe I'll borrow it from him.
writestuff on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Vianne Rocher and her adorable six year old daughter Anouk arrive in the small French town of Lansquenet during a carnival and decide to stay and make it their home. Vianne immediately opens a chocolaterie and begins to minister to the town¿s quirky and sometimes troubled inhabitants - including the misunderstood Josephine, the river gypsy Roux, the elderly and sympathetic Armande Voizin, and the dog-loving Guillaume. Vianne has an uncanny ability to know what each of these people need and her lavish chocolates and candies appeal to their desire to feed temptation and deny themselves nothing. But there is a dark shadow lurking in the village in the guise of a priest by the name of Pere Reynaud. Certain that Vianne and her daughter are witches who put his church in peril, the priest plans to bring them down on the eve of Easter as the town prepares to celebrate by participating in a huge chocolate festival.Joanne Harris writes with rich, evocative language. Her descriptions of place and the people who inhabit the town of Lansquenet are luscious. When she writes of cooking, I found myself slipping between her words and sensing the joy of this experience.So I was a bit baffled when I found myself not loving this book. I wanted to love it. I had looked forward to reading it. I had read glowing reviews of it. But, something was missing.The plot is a bit thin. There are many unanswered questions about Vianne and her mother¿who she remembers throughout the story and who has impacted her life greatly. I was never sure why Vianne never stayed in one place for long and who she was running from. And although I enjoyed the quirky village characters, Harris made the good ones too good and the evil ones too evil.I had trouble rating this book. On the one hand, Harris writes with a fluidity and beauty that I appreciated and would rate a 4.5. On the other hand, I was disappointed in a plot that seemed to fall short and would only garner a 2.5 or 3. The allure of language kept me turning the pages - and certainly there are plenty of readers who found this to be enough to give Chocolat sumptous reviews. Perhaps it was all those great reviews which raised my expectations. In the end, I closed the book and felt a bit disappointed. Despite this, I will give Harris another try, if only to enjoy her rich descriptions.
suncloud9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Vianne and her daughter Anouk are brought to the small French town of Lansquenet by a warm February wind. Who knows how long she will stay? In the meantime, she will set up her chocolaterie and dish out chocolates, warmth, wisdom and a little magic to the subdued townspeople.I love this richly textured story. The women are brilliantly written, particularly Armande (my favorite) and Vianne. Harris alternates depth and lightness, joy and sorrow, magic and realism, love and hate, pain and healing, and acceptance and intolerance with a delicate touch and much poetic charm. The book differs slightly from the film, but both work beautifully! An absolute gem!
extrajoker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
first line: "We came on the wind of the carnival."I really like the way Harris treats magic in this novel. It's subtle, and even the protagonist is ambivalent toward it...questioning the things she accomplishes through seemingly mystical means. Is it scrying? Is it ESP? Or is it simply insight? The result is a world that's simultaneously gritty and mysterious.
seph on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enchanting. I don't like to read books after I've seen the movie they're based on, and I struggled a bit with this book because I'd seen the movie first and it's one of my favorites. The book is ever so slightly grittier than the glossy fairytale of a movie. The magic is darker, the characters have more secrets, the whole story didn't come together quite so neatly in the end, but it's because of that little bit of a more realistic edge that I wound up loving the book more than I expected to. I will watch the movie again and again and again still, but the book will always be there behind it in my mind as a more powerful memory of the truth that seeded the fairytale. I will definitely be picking up the sequel to this one.
bluesalamanders on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked it, but I liked the movie better, though that is possibly because I saw the movie long before I read the book. It was fascinating, however, to recognize the changes that were made - one character from the book that was split into two characters in the movie and so on. The book is darker, more unhappy and depressing, and the ending is not as clear. Of course this isn't bad, and it's not surprising that a movie would change these things, but even knowing that, I still liked the movie better.