…it is worth immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of Lansquenet's narrow 200-year-old streets as they open to newcomers. In Peaches for Father Francis, Harris effectively updates the Chocolat recipe, using the metaphor of food to make the weighty issues of immigration and religious tolerance more palatable.
Harris returns to the setting and heroine that will be familiar to readers of her bestselling Chocolat series. Vianne Rocher is summoned back to the village of Lansquenet by a friend who is seeking to smooth tensions between the Christian community and new Muslim immigrants, bringing Vianne face to face with nemesis Fr. Francis Reynaud, the target of much of the immigrants' resentment. As Vianne spends time in the village, she becomes fascinated by Inès Bencharki, who, beneath her veil, is a flashpoint for discord between the communities. The more that Vianne investigates, the more puzzling seem the events happening in the village. And when people start dying, tensions soar, meaning it will take a miracle, or perhaps just an enchanted chocolatier, to save the town (again). Readers familiar with the Rochers will welcome the newest installment of their story, particularly as it addresses contemporary problems in a familiar setting. While new readers may be surprised by incongruous glimpses of magic, they will appreciate this sensitively told tale. Agent: Peter Robinson, RCW Literary. (Oct.)
"The puzzle explodes with incandescent intensity." -Kirkus Review
"Harris's skill at vibrantly depicting the charm and eccentricity of rural French life is at the heart of this delightful novel." -Library Journal
"Worth immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of Lansquenet's narrow 200-year-old streets."-The Washington Post Nancy Robertson
"Readers familiar with the Rochers will welcome the newest installment of their story, particularly as it addresses contemporary problems in a familiar setting."-Publishers Weekly, Pick of the Week
With Harris's beloved chocolatière, Vianne Rocher, we return to the French village of Lansquenet, where Vianne first opened up shop in Harris's multimillion-best-selling Chocolat. Now the town is changed, with veiled women walking the streets and a minaret rising across the river, and—big surprise!—fierce, resistant Father Francis Reynaud needs Vianne's help. With a four-city tour.
Eight years after the events in Harris' best-selling Chocolat (1999, etc.), her heroine is summoned back to the French village she once revitalized with confections. Vianne Rocher is living in Paris on a houseboat with her husband, Roux, and daughters, Anouk and Rosette, when a posthumous letter arrives from Armande, the crusty old lady who had been her ally in upsetting the straight-laced mores of Lansquenet. This tiny hamlet once more needs Vianne's intervention, Armande writes, without specifying exactly what is amiss. When Vianne arrives, she is surprised to learn the person most in need of rescue is her erstwhile antagonist, the tightly wound, chocolate-hating Monsieur le Curé Francis Reynaud. As parish pastor, Reynaud has been supplanted by a young, smug priest who wants to turn Mass into a PowerPoint presentation and replace the church's old oaken pews with plastic chairs. The Bishop has not been pleased since rumors started circulating that Reynaud set fire to a school for Muslim girls housed in Vianne's former candy shop. Reynaud is suspect because he clashed with the Imam of Les Marauds, Lansquenet's Muslim neighborhood, over the installation of a minaret complete with call to prayer. The school's founder, Inès Bencharki, whose brother, Karim, is the Imam's son-in-law, has, along with her charismatic sibling, introduced Muslim fundamentalism into previously free-wheeling Les Marauds, requiring her pupils to veil themselves. Vianne is drawn into the fray when she takes in Alyssa, the Imam's granddaughter, whom Reynaud saved from drowning herself. As they forge a gingerly alliance, Reynaud and Vianne suspect that Inès and Karim are hiding something, and those secrets, when revealed, are shocking. While Harris' loving attention to the details of cuisine, French and Moroccan, and the daily lives of the eccentric village characters conveys a certain charm, the indolent pace of the novel doesn't accelerate until the puzzle explodes with incandescent intensity near the end. The patient reader, however, will be amply rewarded. A slow buildup to a breathtaking finish.