1990s Uncategorized

Chocolat by Joanne Harris


Five words from the blurb: chocolate, boutique, French, town, church

Chocolat is one of those books that everyone seems to have read, but I hadn’t even seen the film. This meant I was pleased when someone from my book group selected it for our next discussion. Chocolat tells the story of Vianne Rocher, a newcomer who decides to open a chocolate shop in a small French town.

Everyone else in my book group enjoyed Chocolat, but unfortunately it didn’t really work for me. It was a fast paced read, but it lacked depth. The characters were difficult to distinguish from one another and the setting was so vague that it was hard to tell where/when it was set.

The book also seemed to wage a war on the church, hinting that religion was evil and chocolate good. I’m not religious so wasn’t offended by these sections, but I struggled with the simplicity of the arguments. The best stories don’t pit good against evil, but instead show that there are shades of grey in everything. This was all too black and white for me.

Much of the plot was also a bit far fetched. I often struggle with magical realism and although this book didn’t venture far into this genre I still found the implausibility of some scenes difficult.

On a positive note – the description of chocolate manufacture were wonderful – they made me so hungry!

Protected from the sun by the half-blind which shields them, they gleam darkly, like sunken treasure, Aladdin’s cave of sweet clichés. And in the middle she has built a magnificent centrepiece. A gingerbread house, walls of chocolate- coated pain d’epices with the detail piped on in silver and gold icing, roof tiles of florentines studded with crystallized fruits, strange vines of icing and chocolate growing up the walls, marzipan birds singing in chocolate trees…

I’m interested to see how the film handles these subjects, but it seems as though I’m in the minority in not loving this one.




8 replies on “Chocolat by Joanne Harris”

You’re right, it lacks depth – but I remember racing through it, thoroughly enjoying it and not having to think too much… one of those kind of books. I did really like her one ‘Five Quarters of the Orange’ – much better than Chocolat. (The film was OK, saved by the casting of Juliette Binoche as Vianne, and Judi Dench as Armande)

Annabel, I’ve read a few of her other books and found them all to be quite similar in style. I haven’t tried the Orange one, but if I decide to read any more I think that will be it. I look forward to seeing how the film compares 🙂

I read this when it first came out (a long time ago now) and remember enjoying it a lot. Mind you, I was in my sick bed and wanted something sweet (pun intended) to cheer me up and it fit the bill perfectly. I also enjoyed Blackberry Wine and Five Quarters of the Orange, but thought Holy Fools was disappointing and not read anything by her since then.

Kim, I think I might have enjoyed this when I was younger, but I’m a bit anti-sweet at the moment. I read Blueeyedboy and thought it was better than this, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a massive fan of her work. 🙁

I haven’t read it, and don’t plan to because I tend to like meatier things BUT it is a delightful film and I’ve seen it 2-3 times. Some books I must read before I see a film, but for some books I think the film is good enough for me. This is one of those. Juliette Binoche is gorgeous, and Johnny Depp ain’t bad either!

Whispering Gums, I think I agree with you. I quite like light films occasionally. Not sure why lighter books don’t work for me, but I look forward to watching this one.

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