Thursday, July 14, 2011

"We came on the wind of the carnival."

Joanne Harris' Chocolat has been on my TBR for quite a while and, as I'm behind on my reading from my shelves tally for the year (only at 20 of a desired 50 right now), I needed to get through some of the shorter books to try and catch up. Not only is this a short book but it was also a quick read, with some simple but powerful ideas and an interesting cast of characters.

Vianne Rocher is a wanderer, born of a wanderer. She decides to make a stay in Lansquenet, a French village, where she might not be entirely welcome. Her specialty is chocolate but her timing couldn't be worse as it's the start of Lent. The local priest sees her as a temptress who must be forced out of town but some of the villagers find that she supplies exactly what they've been missing in their lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel -- up until the last few pages.

SPOILERISH MOMENT (skip if you plan on reading the book)

If you have read the novel, you know that something happens that Vianne acts like is no big deal but which will obviously cause problems once the truth gets out. She seems so intelligent and sensitive up until that point and then all of a sudden she is just incredibly self-centered. It almost ruined her entire character for me. Luckily, though, after some time now, it is the larger picture of the story that stands out and not the ending.


But until the end, I really loved the characters -- from children to old women, gypsies to retirees. Even the narrow-minded and boorish characters were well written. And the discussion of chocolates and flowers made me want to pick up and move to France as soon as possible. Instead, I will have to borrow the film and settle on an evening with Johnny Depp instead.

Dreaming of confections,

Support our site and buy Chocolat on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy.


  1. The movie is very enjoyable - but it does differ from the book (don't they always?)

    Joanne Harris seems to specialise in morally ambiguous endings - I enjoyed Blackberry Wine (though one of the main characters annoyed the hell out of me) but I hated Five Quarters of the Orange - it made my skin crawl. But I did especially enjoy her collection of short stories - Jigs and Reels.

  2. The movie is very different from the book, but I enjoyed both of them a lot! Saw the movie first, though - not sure how the order affects enjoyment.

  3. I loved the movie, but haven't read the book. It sounds like I should!

  4. Mm, Johnny Depp. This is one of the few cases where I prefer the film to the book -- in the book I found the mayor-guy, the curate, to be really creepy. In the film he's a jerk but there isn't that weird sex element that bothered me in the book. It put me off Joanne Harris semi-permanently, so I always approach her books with caution if at all.

  5. I love Johnny Depp in the movie but he's not really well cast as the love interest. I still can't figure out why he speaks with an Irish accent instead of France -- he lives in France, so it shouldn't be that hard for him!

  6. I love the movie as well, but haven't read the book. I enjoyed the movie, and do want to read the book. Your review encourages me.

  7. All - I was so tempted to do this as a book vs. movie post because I also loved the movie!

    Tracy - I forget where (maybe the Gaiman "Stories" volume?) but I recently read a short story by Joanne Harris and it wasn't what I was expecting from her (based on nothing because I hadn't read anything by her yet!) but now I'm starting to get a sense of her voice.

    Amanda - I'm not sure if order would matter on this one because they have such a different tone. They almost feel like two different storytellers telling the same tale.

    Col - It's definitely worth reading.

    Jenny - I prefer the film too, without the chocolate fetish and the morally questionable ending.

    Karen - He's a gypsy, a wanderer who rode the river from ... um, Ireland? No, it doesn't make sense but I'm willing to overlook it this time!

    Diane - I really wanted to watch the film after reading the book but it wasn't on Netflix streaming.

    Anothercookie - It's quite a short book so you should definitely read it at least for comparison.