Chocolat

Chocolat

by Joanne Harris

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Overview

Even before it was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, Joanne Harris' New York Times bestselling novel Chocolat entranced readers with its mix of hedonism, whimsy, and, of course, chocolate.

In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne's uncanny perception of its buyer's private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Chocolat's every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It's a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140282030
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/2000
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 158,275
Product dimensions: 7.76(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.56(d)
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

Chapter One


February 11.
Shrove Tuesday


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.

    "Are we staying? Are we staying here?" I have to remind her to speak French. "But are we? Are we?" She clings to my sleeve. Her hair is a cotton-candy tangle in the wind.

    I consider. It's as good a place as any. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, two hundred souls at most, no more than a blip on the fast road between Toulouse and Bordeaux. Blink once, and it's gone. One main street, a double row of dun-colored half-timbered houses leaning secretively together, a few laterals running parallel like the tines of a bent fork. A church, aggressively whitewashed, in a square of little shops. Farms scattered across the watchful land. Orchards, vineyards, strips of earth enclosed and regimented according to the strict apartheid of country farming: here apples, there kiwis, melons, endives beneath their black plastic shells, vines looking blighted and dead in the thin February sun but awaiting triumphant resurrection by March.... Behind that the Tannes, small tributary of the Garonne, fingers its way across the marshy pasture. And the people? They look much like all others we have known; a little pale perhaps in the unaccustomed sunlight, a little drab. Headscarves and berets are the color of the hair beneath, brown, black, or gray. Faces are lined like last summer's apples, eyes pushed into wrinkled flesh like marbles into old dough. A few children, flying colors of red and lime green and yellow, seem like a different race. As the char advances ponderously along the street behind the old tractor that pulls it, a large woman with a square, unhappy face clutches a tartan coat about her shoulders and shouts something in the half-comprehensible local dialect; on the wagon a squat Santa Claus, out of season among the fairies and sirens and goblins, hurls sweets at the crowd with barely restrained aggression. A small-featured elderly man, wearing a felt hat rather than the round beret more common to the region, picks up the sad brown dog from between my legs with a look of polite apology. I see his thin graceful fingers moving in the dog's fur; the dog whines; the master's expression becomes complex with love, concern, guilt. No one looks at us. We might as well be invisible; our clothing marks us as strangers, transients. They are polite, so polite; no one stares at us. The woman, her long hair tucked into the collar of her orange coat, a long silk scarf fluttering at her throat; the child in yellow Wellingtons and sky blue mac. Their coloring marks them. Their clothes are exotic, their faces--are they too pale or too dark?--their hair marks them other, foreign, indefinably strange. The people of Lansquenet have learned the art of observation without eye contact. I feel their gaze like a breath on the nape of my neck, strangely without hostility but cold nevertheless. We are a curiosity to them, a part of the carnival, a whiff of the outlands. I feel their eyes upon us as I turn to buy a galette from the vendor. The paper is hot and greasy, the dark wheat pancake crispy at the edges but thick and good in the center. I break off a piece and give it to Anouk, wiping melted butter from her chin. The vendor is a plump, balding man with thick glasses, his face slick with the steam from the hot plate. He winks at her. With the other eye he takes in every detail, knowing there will be questions later.

    "On holiday, madame?" Village etiquette allows him to ask; behind his tradesman's indifference I see a real hunger. Knowledge is currency here; with Agen and Montauban so close, tourists are a rarity.

    "For a while."

    "From Paris, then?" It must be our clothes. In this garish land the people are drab. Color is a luxury; it wears badly. The bright blossoms of the roadside are weeds, invasive, useless.

    "No, no, not Paris."

    The char is almost at the end of the street. A small band--two fifes, two trumpets, a trombone, and a side drum--follow it, playing a thin unidentifiable march. A dozen children scamper in its wake, picking up the unclaimed sweets. Some are in costume; I see Little Red Riding Hood and a shaggy person who might be the wolf squabbling companionably over possession of a handful of streamers.

    A black figure brings up the rear. At first I take him for a part of the parade--the Plague Doctor, maybe--but as he approaches I recognize the old-fashioned soutane of the country priest. He is in his thirties, though from a distance his rigid stance makes him seem older. He turns toward me, and I see that he too is a stranger, with the high cheekbones and pale eyes of the north and long pianist's fingers resting on the silver cross that hangs from his neck. Perhaps this is what gives him the right to stare at me, this alienness; but I see no welcome in his cold, light eyes. Only the measuring, feline look of one who is uncertain of his territory. I smile at him; he looks away, startled; beckons the two children toward him. A gesture indicates the litter that now lines the road; reluctantly the pair begin to clear it, scooping up spent streamers and candy wrappers in their arms and into a nearby bin. I catch the priest staring at me again as I turn away, a look that in another man might have been of appraisal.

    There is no police station at Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, therefore no crime. I try to be like Anouk, to see beneath the disguise to the truth, but for now everything is blurred.

    "Are we staying? Are we, maman?" She tugs at my arm, insistently. "I like it, I like it here. Are we staying?"

    I catch her up into my arms and kiss the top of her head. She smells of smoke and frying pancakes and warm bedclothes on a winter's morning.

    Why not? It's as good a place as any.

    "Yes, of course," I tell her, my mouth in her hair. "Of course we are." Not quite a lie. This time it may even be true.


* * *


The carnival is gone. Once a year the village flares into transient brightness, but even now the warmth has faded, the crowd dispersed. The vendors pack up their hot plates and awnings, the children discard their costumes and party favors. A slight air of embarrassment prevails, of abashment at this excess of noise and color. Like rain in midsummer it evaporates, runs into the cracked earth and through the parched stones, leaving barely a trace. Two hours later Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is invisible once more, like an enchanted village that appears only once every year. But for the carnival we should have missed it altogether.

    We have gas but as yet no electricity. On our first night I made pancakes for Anouk by candlelight and we ate them by the fireside, using an old magazine for plates, as none of our things can be delivered until tomorrow. The shop was originally a bakery and still carries the baker's wheatsheaf carved above the narrow doorway, but the floor is thick with a floury dust, and we picked our way across a drift of junk mail as we came in. The lease seems ridiculously cheap, accustomed as we are to city prices; even so I caught the sharp glance of suspicion from the woman at the agency as I counted out the banknotes. On the lease document I am Vianne Rocher, the signature a hieroglyph that might mean anything. By the light of the candle we explored our new territory; the old ovens still surprisingly good beneath the grease and soot, the pine-paneled walls, the blackened earthen tiles. Anouk found the old awning folded away in a back room, and we dragged it out; spiders scattered from under the faded canvas. Our living area is above the shop: two rooms and a bathroom, ridiculously tiny balcony, terra-cotta planter with dead geraniums.... Anouk made a face when she saw it.

    "It's so dark, maman." She sounded awed, uncertain in the face of so much dereliction. "And it smells so sad."

    She is right. The smell is like daylight trapped for years until it has gone sour and rancid, of mouse droppings and the ghosts of things unremembered and unmourned. It echoes like a cave, the small heat of our presence only serving to accentuate every shadow. Paint and sunlight and soapy water will rid it of the grime, but the sadness is another matter, the forlorn resonance of a house where no one has laughed for years. Anouk's face looked pale and large-eyed in the candlelight, her hand tightening in mine.

    "Do we have to sleep here?" she asked. "Pantoufle doesn't like it. He's afraid."

    I smiled and kissed her solemn golden cheek. "Pantoufle is going to help us."

    We lit a candle for every room, gold and red and white and orange. I prefer to make my own incense, but in a crisis the bought sticks were good enough for our purposes, lavender and cedar and lemongrass. We each held a candle, Anouk blowing her toy trumpet and I rattling a metal spoon in an old saucepan, and for ten minutes we stamped around every room, shouting and singing at the top of our voices--Out! Out! Out!--until the walls shook and the outraged ghosts fled, leaving in their wake a faint scent of scorching and a good deal of fallen plaster. Look behind the cracked and blackened paintwork, behind the sadness of things abandoned, and begin to see faint outlines, like the afterimage of a sparkler held in the hand--here a wall adazzle with golden paint, there an armchair, a little shabby but colored a triumphant orange, the old awning suddenly glowing as half-hidden colors slide out from beneath the layers of grime. Out! Out! Out! Anouk and Pantoufle stamped and sang, and the faint images seemed to grow brighter--a red stool beside the vinyl counter, a string of bells against the front door. Of course, I know it's only a game. Glamours to comfort a frightened child. There'll have to be work done, hard work, before any of this becomes real. And yet for the moment it is enough to know that the house welcomes us, as we welcome it. Rock salt and bread by the doorstep to placate any resident gods. Sandalwood on our pillow to sweeten our dreams.

    Later Anouk told me Pantoufle wasn't frightened anymore, so that was all right. We slept together in our clothes on the floury mattress in the bedroom with all the candles burning, and when we awoke it was morning.


Chapter Two


February 12.
Ash Wednesday


Actually the bells woke us. I hadn't realized quite how close we were to the church until I heard them, a single low resonant drone falling into a bright carillon--dómmm flá-di-dadi-dómmmm--on the downbeat. I looked at my watch. It was six o'clock. Gray-gold light filtered through the broken shutters onto the bed. I stood up and looked out onto the square, with its wet cobbles shining. The square white church tower stood out sharply in the morning sunlight, rising from a hollow of dark shopfronts; a bakery, a florist, a shop selling graveyard paraphernalia--plaques, stone angels, enameled everlasting roses.... Above these discreetly shuttered facades the white tower is a beacon, the Roman numerals of the clock gleaming redly at six-twenty to baffle the devil, the Virgin in her dizzy eyrie watching the square with a faintly sickened expression. At the tip of the short spire, a weathervane turns--west to west-north-west--a robed man with a scythe. From the balcony with the dead geranium I could see the first arrivals to mass. I recognized the woman in the tartan coat from the carnival; I waved to her, but she hurried on without an answering gesture, pulling her coat protectively around her. Behind her the felt-hatted man with his sad brown dog in tow gave me a hesitant smile. I called down brightly to him, but seemingly village etiquette did not allow for such informalities, for he did not respond, hurrying in his turn into the church, taking his dog with him.

    After that no one even looked up at my window, though I counted over sixty heads--scarves, berets, hats drawn down against an invisible wind--but I felt their studied, curious indifference. They had matters of importance to consider, said their hunched shoulders and lowered heads. Their feet dragged sullenly at the cobbles like the feet of children going to school. This one has given up smoking today, I knew; that one his weekly visit to the cafe, another will forgo her favorite foods. It's none of my business, of course. But I felt at that moment that if ever a place were in need of a little magic ... Old habits never die. And when you've once been in the business of granting wishes, the impulse never quite leaves you. And besides, the wind, the carnival wind, was still blowing, bringing with it the dim scent of grease and cotton candy and gunpowder, the hot sharp scents of the changing seasons, making the palms itch and the heart beat faster.... For a time, then, we stay. For a time. Till the wind changes.


* * *


We bought the paint in the general store, and with it brushes, rollers, soap, and buckets. We began upstairs and worked down, stripping curtains and throwing broken fittings onto the growing pile in the tiny back garden, soaping floors and making tidal waves down the narrow, sooty stairway so that both of us were soaked several times through. Anouk's scrubbing brush became a submarine, and mine a tanker that sent noisy soap torpedoes scudding down the stairs and into the hall. In the middle of this I heard the doorbell jangle and looked up, soap in one hand, brush in the other, at the tall figure of the priest.

    I'd wondered how long it would take him to arrive.

    He considered us for a time, smiling. A guarded smile, proprietary, benevolent; the lord of the manor welcomes inopportune guests. I could feel him very conscious of my wet and dirty overalls, my hair caught up in a red scarf, my bare feet in their dripping sandals.

    "Good morning." There was a rivulet of scummy water heading for his highly polished black shoe. I saw his eyes flick toward it and back to me.

    "Francis Reynaud," he said, discreetly sidestepping. "Curé of the parish."

    I laughed at that; I couldn't help it. "Oh, that's it," I said maliciously. "I thought you were with the carnival." Polite laughter; heh, heh, heh.

    I held out a yellow plastic glove. "Vianne Rocher. And the bombardier back there is my daughter, Anouk."

    Sounds of soap explosions, and of Anouk fighting Pantoufle on the stairs. I could hear the priest waiting for details of Mr. Rocher. So much easier to have everything on a piece of paper, everything official, avoid this uncomfortable, messy conversation....

    "I suppose you were very busy this morning."

    I suddenly felt sorry for him, trying so hard, straining to make contact. Again the forced smile.

    "Yes, we really need to get this place in order as soon as possible. It's going to take time! But we wouldn't have been at church this morning anyway, monsieur le curé. We don't attend, you know." It was kindly meant, to show him where we stood, to reassure him; but he looked startled, almost insulted.

    "I see."

    It was too direct. He would have liked us to dance a little, to circle each other like wary cats.

    "But it's very kind of you to welcome us," I continued brightly. "You might even be able to help us make a few friends here."

    He is a little like a cat himself, I notice; cold, light eyes that never hold the gaze, a restless watchfulness, studied, aloof.

    "I'll do anything I can." He is indifferent now that he knows we are not to be members of his flock. And yet his conscience pushes him to offer more than he is willing to give. "Have you anything in mind?"

    "Well, we could do with some help here," I suggested. "Not you, of course--" quickly, as he began to reply. "But perhaps you know someone who could do with the extra money? A plasterer, someone who might be able to help with the decorating?" This was surely safe territory.

    "I can't think of anyone." He is guarded, more so than anyone I have ever met. "But I'll ask around." Perhaps he will. He knows his duty to the new arrival. But I know he will not find anyone. His is not a nature that grants favors graciously. His eyes flicked warily to the pile of bread and salt by the door.

    "For luck." I smiled, but his face was stony. He skirted the little offering as if it offended him.

    "Maman?" Anouk's head appeared in the doorway, hair standing out in crazy spikes. "Pantoufle wants to play outside. Can we?"

    I nodded. "Stay in the garden." I wiped a smudge of dirt from the bridge of her nose. "You look a complete urchin." I saw her glance at the priest and caught her comical look just in time. "This is Monsieur Reynaud, Anouk. Why don't you say hello?"

    "Hello!" shouted Anouk on the way to the door. "Good-bye!" A blur of yellow jumper and red overalls and she was gone, her feet skidding manically on the greasy tiles. Not for the first time, I was almost sure I saw Pantoufle disappearing in her wake, a darker smudge against the dark lintel.

    "She's only six," I said by way of explanation.

    Reynaud gave a tight, sour smile, as if his first glimpse of my daughter confirmed every one of his suspicions about me.


Chapter Three


Thursday, February 13.


Thank God that's over. Visits tire me to the bone. I don't mean you, of course, mon père; my weekly visit to you is a luxury, you might almost say my only one. I hope you like the flowers. They don't look much, but they smell wonderful. I'll put them here, beside your chair, where you can see them. It's a good view from here across the fields, with the Tannes in the middle distance and the Garonne gleaming in the far. You might almost imagine we were alone. Oh, I'm not complaining. Not really. But you must know how heavy it is for one man to carry. Their petty concerns, their dissatisfactions, their foolishness, their thousand trivial problems ... On Tuesday it was the carnival. Anyone might have taken them for savages, dancing and screaming. Louis Perrin's youngest, Claude, fired a water pistol at me, and what would his father say but that he was a youngster, and needed to play a little? All I want is to guide them, mon père, to free them from their sin. But they fight me at every turn, like children refusing wholesome fare in order to continue eating what sickens them. I know you understand. For fifty years you held all this on your shoulders in patience and strength. You earned their love. Have times changed so much? Here I am feared, respected ... but loved, no. Their faces are sullen, resentful. Yesterday they left the service with ash on their foreheads and a look of guilty relief. Left to their secret indulgences, their solitary vices. Don't they understand? The Lord sees everything. I see everything. Paul-Marie Muscat beats his wife. He pays ten Aves weekly in the confessional and leaves to begin again in exactly the same way. His wife steals. Last week she went to the market and stole trumpery jewelry from a vendor's stall. Guillaume Duplessis wants to know if animals have souls, and weeps when I tell him they don't. Charlotte Edouard thinks her husband has a mistress--I know he has three, but the confessional keeps me silent. What children they are! Their demands leave me bloodied and reeling. But I cannot afford to show weakness. Sheep are not the docile, pleasant creatures of the pastoral idyll. Any countryman will tell you that. They are sly, occasionally vicious, pathologically stupid. The lenient shepherd may find his flock unruly, defiant. I cannot afford to be lenient. That is why, once a week, I allow myself this one indulgence. Your mouth is as closely sealed, mon père, as that of the confessional. Your ears are always open, your heart always kind. For an hour I can lay aside the burden. I can be fallible.

    We have a new parishioner. A Vianne Rocher, a widow, I take it, with a young child. Do you remember old Blaireau's bakery? Four years since he died, and the place has been going to ruin ever since. Well, she has taken the lease on it, and hopes to reopen by the end of the week. I don't expect it to last. We already have Poitou's bakery across the square, and besides, she'll never fit in. A pleasant enough woman, but she has nothing in common with us. Give her two months, and she'll be back to the city where she belongs. Funny, I never did find out where she was from. Paris, I expect, or maybe even across the border. Her accent is pure, almost too pure for a Frenchwoman, with the clipped vowels of the north, though her eyes suggest Italian or Portuguese descent, and her skin ... But I didn't really see her. She worked in the bakery all yesterday and today. There is a sheet of orange plastic over the window, and occasionally she or her little wild daughter appears to tip a bucket of dirty water into the gutter, or to talk animatedly with some workman or other. She has an odd facility for acquiring helpers. Though I offered to assist her, I doubted whether she would find many of our villagers willing. And yet I saw Clairmont early this morning, carrying a load of wood, then Pourceau with his ladders. Poitou sent some furniture; I saw him carrying an armchair across the square with the furtive look of a man who does not wish to be seen. Even that ill-tempered backbiter Narcisse, who flatly refused to dig over the churchyard last November, went over there with his tools to tidy up her garden. This morning at about eight-forty a delivery van arrived in front of the shop. Duplessis, who was walking his dog at the usual time, was just passing at that moment, and she called him over to help her unload. I could see he was startled by the request--for a second I was almost certain he would refuse--one hand halfway to his hat. She said something then--I didn't hear what it was--and I heard her laughter ringing across the cobbles. She laughs a great deal, and makes many extravagant comical gestures with her arms. Again a city trait, I suppose. We are accustomed to a greater reserve in the people around us, but I expect she means well. A violet scarf was knotted gypsy-fashion around her head, but most of her hair had escaped from beneath it and was streaked with white paint. She didn't seem to mind. Duplessis could not recall later what she had said to him, but said in his diffident way that the delivery was nothing, only a few boxes, small but quite heavy, and some open crates containing kitchen utensils. He did not ask what was in the boxes, though he doubts such a small supply of anything would go very far in a bakery.

    Do not imagine, mon père, that I spent my day watching the bakery. It is simply that it stands almost immediately opposite my own house--the one that was yours, mon père, before all this. Throughout the last day and a half there has been nothing but hammering and painting and whitewashing and scrubbing until in spite of myself I cannot help but be curious to see the result. I am not alone in this; I overheard Madame Clairmont gossiping self-importantly to a group of friends outside Poitou's of her husband's work; there was talk of "red shutters" before they noticed me and subsided into sly muttering. As if I cared. The new arrival has certainly provided food for gossip, if nothing else. I find the orange-covered window catches the eye at the strangest times. It looks like a huge bonbon waiting to be unwrapped, like a remaining slice of the carnival. There is something unsettling about its brightness and the way the plastic folds catch the sun; I will be happy when the work is finished and the place is a bakery once more.

    The nurse is trying to catch my eye. She thinks I tire you. How can you bear them, with their loud voices and nursery manner? Time for our rest, now, I think. Her archness is jarring, unbearable. And yet she means kindly, your eyes tell me. Forgive them, they know not what they do. I am not kind. I come here for my own relief, not yours. And yet I like to believe my visits give you pleasure, keeping you in touch with the hard edges of a world gone soft and featureless. Television an hour a night, turning five times a day, food through a tube. To be talked over as if you were an object--Can he hear us? Do you think he understands?--your opinions unsought, discarded ... To be closed from everything, and yet to feel, to think ... This is the truth of hell, stripped of its gaudy medievalisms. This loss of contact. And yet I look to you to teach me communication. Teach me hope.

Reading Group Guide

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?

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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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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 More than 1 year 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.