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Tag Archives: Joanne Harris

The Girl With No Shadow by Joanne Harris

So, in my eagerness to post about the 3rd Chocolat book, Peaches for Father Francis, it took me a few days to realize… I haven’t posted about the 2nd book yet!  So, slightly out of order, here it is: The Girl With No ShadowMany, many apologies for being so absentminded!

Early in the year, I was on a Chocolat kick, and The Girl With No Shadow is the sequel to Chocolat, so naturally, I gobbled it up.  It is set several years after the first book in Monmatre – one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris.  I don’t say this very often about sequels, but I’m saying it here – the second book is better than the first!

Vianne Rocher and her daughters have moved to a small, not completely successful chocolaterie in Monmatre and are struggling.  Vianne is no longer making chocolates by hand but is instead ordering them in.  Business is bad and Vianne is exhausted.  Anouk is now nearly a teenager – which is cool, because she gets to be part narrator in this book which is told from 3 perspectives, but she’s starting to be more private and is at times resentful of her mother.  Rosette, Anouk’s little sister, is nonverbal and likely has something on the Autism spectrum.  Roux is nowhere in sight, but a new man, Thierry, is.  Finally, a stranger, Zozie de l’Alba roars onto the scene and to say she shakes things up in the Rocher family is an understatement (Zozie is another narrator of the book).

I LOVED this book.  It is much darker than its predecessor, but the result is a book that had me reading late into the night nearly every night and carrying around with me so I could catch a chapter or two in slow moments.  It’s been a really long time since I had a book that I could.not.put.down and this is definitely one of those.  It’s a big jump from where you left off in Lansquenet at the end of Chocolat – and Harris really captures a side of Monmatre that as a tourist you never get to see.  Nonetheless, Harris’s real skill in writing is her well developed characters – not just the main ones, but their neighbors and friends they meet throughout the course of the book.  Just as in Chocolat, the minor characters here don’t disappoint.

I highly HIGHLY recommend this book – just make sure you read Chocolat first!  The Girl With No Shadow wouldn’t be the same without it.  I give it 5 stars – I will definitely be reading it again! ★★★★★

Becca

Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris

We’re finally there – the last of my Chocolat posts!  Recently, I read the third and final installment, Peaches for Father Francis.

I have to admit that while a good story, after The Girl With No Shadow, Peaches was a bit of a disappointment.  This is not to take away from Peaches at all – it’s just that the book that came before it was so fantastic, I was left with (maybe unrealistically) high expectations.  The third story takes place back in the small village of Lansquenet and opens with a letter from a (now dead) character from the first book asking Vianne and her family to return.  They do, only to find that quite a bit has changed – most notably, there has been an influx of Muslims to the small town, resulting in some tension.  Vianne and her once-nemesis, Pere Reynaud, form a tentative friendship as they try to bring, if not tolerance, at least some acceptance to the divided village.  It seems like the Muslim-as-the-scary-outsider-who-really-is-just-like-you-and-me is a trendy topic for books nowadays, but Harris handles it well.  She writes with an honest voice – the villagers, new and old, are different.  But she writes in a way that addresses the value of those differences in a way that isn’t cheesy or preachy – which I appreciate!

Again, Harris’s strength is in her relatable and well-developed characters.  And the addition of new characters has freshened up Lansquenet in the view of this reader – there are still the same quirky personalities as before, and now there are even more to appreciate.

Frankly, the third book is not what the second was – but it’s still a good read, and it was delightful to venture back to the village of Lansquenet and see it modernized, but still cozy.  I recommend this book and give it three and a half stars.

★★★ 1/2

– Becca

Chocolats du Cali Bressan (Santa Barbara, California)

After reading Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, I was left with a craving that plain ol’ Hershey’s just couldn’t satisfy.  I needed beautiful, gourmet, thoughtfully-prepared and delicious chocolates a la Vianne Rocher.  And, much to my luck, I found them right here in Santa Barbara!  Chocolats du Cali Bressan is a legitimate French chocolaterie that I just know makes truffles and bon bons to rival Vianne’s.  It also doesn’t hurt that it’s right next door to the new downtown tasting room of one of my favorites, Sanford Winery.  Best of all – you don’t have to be in beautiful Santa Barbara to benefit from these delicious treats.  You can order them online!

We generally review places that you can sit and read a book at – this is not one of them.  It’s a small, hole-in-the-wall place.  However, it’s near some outdoor benches, a great winery (that, admittedly, is nearly always too full to linger over a book) and all the other seating that downtown Santa Barbara has to offer.  So if you’re near or far, I recommend you grab a chocolate (or two), and settle in with Chocolat.  I’m no Vianne, so I don’t know what your favorite is, but I can tell you mine!  I recommend the Boysenberry Seashell and Earl Grey Bon Bons, as well as the Szichuan Pepper and Orange Truffle – though you can also try the Rocher bon bon… perhaps named after our heroine herself?

Final great thing – Chocolate Tasting/Tours with champagne monthly!  If you’re local, check the site for more details.

I give this chocolaterie 4 stars.  I know you’ll enjoy it too! ★★★★

http://www.chococalibressan.com/

– Becca

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I’m behind on reporting back about my Christmas book finds, but here’s another one.

I’m a first year high school English teacher and my department has a wonderful tradition for a holiday party – a book exchange.  Each English teacher (and total book nerd) brings an old or new favorite wrapped book, and then the stealing begins.  This year, I ended up with Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris, which is the 3rd book in the Chocolat series.  I had no idea it even was a series, so of course, I knew I had to buy and read the two books preceding it.  I’m so glad I did.

I began with Chocolat – the first, and arguably most popular of the three.  The movie is good, but the book is absolutely enchanting.  You know the type of book that you just want to crawl inside and stay awhile?  This is one of those books!  The plot is not entirely memorable – strange woman and her daughter move to a town where nothing is “strange” and open a chocolaterie.  Some people love them, several people don’t, but they are successful nonetheless.  This isn’t the type of book you read for the events in the plot, though.  You read it for the well developed, quirky characters who you can always recognize as people from your own acquaintance.  You read it for the small, quaint French town that makes you want to move to some remote village immediately and spend your days gossiping and drinking chocolat in a terraced cafe.  I loved reading this book, and I think you will too.  Just remember to have lots of great chocolate on hand – you’ll need it!

I give this book 4 stars.  And stay tuned.  I also read the second and third books and was equally enchanted (though in different ways) by them.  ★★★★

– Becca