from the back cover
When beautiful, unmarried Vianne Rocher sweeps into the pinched little French town of Lansquenet on the heels of the carnival and opens a gem of a chocolate shop across the square from the church, she begins to wreak havoc with the town's Lenten vows. Her uncanny ability to perceive her customers' private discontents and alleviate them with just the right confection coaxes the villagers to abandon themselves to temptation and hapiness, but enrages Pere Reynaud, the local priest. Certain only a witch could stir such sinful indulgence and devise such clever cures, Reynaud pits himself against Vianne and vows to block the chocolate festival she plans for Easter Sunday, and to run her out of town forever.
Ever since watching the movie several years ago, I have been itching to read this book. It presents unique yet ordinary characters centered around detailed descriptions of mouth-watering chocolate (don't read this hungry) against the backdrop of a small French town -- modern with a touch of nostalgia. Besides the chocolate, I really appreciated the relationships in Chocolat. Joanne Harris paints a rich picture of how individuals affect one another and, in turn, an entire town.
The perspective alternates between Vianne and Pere Reynaud, which is fascinating yet frustrating as the priest takes the role of the villain. Granted, Reynaud is a stiff, old-fashioned man with an odd sense of right and wrong whom one can't help but dislike from the first. And while Joanne Harris does not glorify witchcraft in this book, the protagonist does use it on occasion, however reluctantly.
I suppose this is more of a slice-of-life type story where, as in real life, perfection does not exist. It is a story of people journeying through life together, discovering what it means to be human.
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