Okay, I’m back. An interstate move, a complete career change and getting my new life settled has been somewhat preoccupied. However, my stack of unread books is getting out of hand and I thought I should get my act together.
In my spare time I have been reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris. This once again breaks my rule about seeing a movie before reading the book but there are so many novel adaptations these days I’m finding it hard to keep up. In this case, to admit my own ignorance, I was not aware the movie Chocolat came from a book. Hey, it stars Johnny Depp, who wouldn’t watch it!
Now I never thought I would say, think or write the next sentence in my life so I will do so quickly… I much preferred the storyline of the movie. (I know, I know, how hideous of me!!)
Now in saying this, the storylines were miles apart. However, this is a book review, so lets discuss the book.
The story is told primarily told through the view of Vianne, single mother of Anouk, who travel from town to town living a somewhat gypsy type lifestyle. This is a lifestyle which Vianne also lived with her mother, constantly trying to avoid the ‘black man’ that haunts them. The black man can appear anywhere, in many different forms, always prompting yet another move to a new place.
Vianne and Anouk arrive in the small French town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, a very straightforward and religious village, at the beginning of Lent during a carnival. They soon rent an old and empty shop to open a chocolaterie, La Céleste Praline, much to the distaste of the village Priest – Reynaud.
Every few chapters we experience a part of the story through Reynaud’s eyes as he tells the tales of Vianne to an unknown party. Vital to tying pieces of the tale together, these chapters were personally my least favorite part of the book.
Throughout Vianne’s struggle to get the towns people to accept her and her daughter, we are introduced to some colorful characters that become regulars at the chocolaterie. Josephine – a skittish and frazzled woman who is known as the town shoplifter, Armande – Vianne’s first friend who likes to indulge in her secret guilty pleasures and Roux – a river gypsy whose loyalty and kind heart brings a lot of the characters together.
These characters are all fighting their own battles and lean on each other to gain the strength they all need. As background stories unravel, we begin to better understand the feelings and opinions of all involved. Scandals and secrets play a big part of this quiet, quaint little town.
All in all this is a nice little book, however, I did find my mind wandering at certain points. Don’t go in to this book expecting to know what happens due to the movie, perhaps this is where I went wrong – and why I say to ALWAYS read the book first. Whilst the stories slightly mirror each other they are also completely different. So I think the jury is still out on this one. Let me know what you think…