This review appeared in nb70.
Joanne Harris’ latest novel takes us back to the familiar village setting of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes for the third instalment in her very popular Chocolat series.
Vianne Rocher is drawn back to the village by an unexpected letter from a very old friend. Almost as soon as she arrives she feels herself swept back into the current of the place, as if she had never been away. Even so, some drastic changes have taken place since she left and new tensions and mysteries are straining the atmosphere, helped along by that temperamental wind that Vianne can’t seem to escape.
Fans of the series won’t be disappointed. The book provides a lovely chance to catch up with familiar characters and Joanne Harris weaves in her usual magic of scent and taste; the strong theme of senses are satisfyingly prevalent.
The twist in this story is Joanne Harris’ decision to tackle the subject of how the religion of Islam can be used in some communities as an excuse for certain behaviour and segregation. It is a brave subject for the author to approach but she has made a success of it in a way of her own. She has introduced a story line with the twists and secrets so recognisable in her style. The niqab features strongly in the storyline, an item designed to hide the wearer from view. In spite of this, Joanne Harris has drawn her Muslim characters so well that their clothing makes no difference to how well we come to know them.
There are many strands to this story, some of which tie up nicely, some of which give the impression there may be more to come. I do hope so because reading a Joanne Harris novel always feels like some kind of special treat and when she allows us to revisit her characters that we know and love best the indulgence is even more so.
This novel would absolutely appeal to fans of the author’s previous work. Due to certain threads it would help if the reader was familiar with Chocolat and less importantly but helpfully The Lollipop Shoes. However, due to the book’s fascinating approach to a controversial subject it would make an excellent book club choice due to the volume of topics that would instigate discussion. An all round recommendation.