Chocolat by Joanne Harris

chocolatIn Chocolat, Vianne is trying to break  away from her mother’s nomadic way of life. Determined to make a new life for herself and her daughter Anouk, Vianne settles down in a French village and opens a chocolate shop. However, the villagers and priest are less than thrilled with her presence since she has very different ideas on life. She does not attend the local church, she was never married to Anouk’s father, and she seems set on bringing about changes that will affect everyone’s lives.

This book was well-written and very enjoyable. It mostly takes place from  Vianne’s point of view as she becomes a driving force in the changes that come to the town. The writing style keeps you involved from the beginning, and the characters are fully developed. As you progress through the book, you delve into the pasts of the characters, learning how they came to the positions they currently occupy. You learn why Vianne wants to settle down, why Jacqueline is trapped in her marriage, and why the priest is against everything Vianne stands for. In addition, the protagonist is an intelligent woman who is very independent and strong-willed, which is part of what makes this book so interesting. Note: You will crave chocolate while reading this.

Genre: Fiction, but it is not truly a romance, despite the cover.

Setting: Twentieth-century French village called Lansquenet.

Is this good for a book club? Yes. It is a good length and allows for plenty of discussion, including character analysis, recurring themes, and what could potentially happen to everyone after the book ends.

Is there a movie version? Yes, but it is different enough from the book that it would provide a good comparison. Personally, I did not enjoy the movie because I felt that it took the characters and overall tone in directions that the author did not intend. However, you should watch it to see what you think. Click here for the movie version.

Themes: Including, but not limited to, letting go and moving on with life, overcoming feelings of powerlessness, retaining one’s morality, religion, and friction between people of different classes and walks of life.

Objectionable content? Very little, and nothing explicit. Some people may not like that the antagonist is a Catholic priest. However, despite being the antagonist, he is not a villainous character.

Can children read this? Teens would enjoy this.

 Who would like this? Anyone who enjoys reading fiction that involves good character development and a non-traditional protagonist.

Rating: Five stars. I highly recommend Chocolat.

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