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A tantalising novel about the ultimate luxury and sin- that dark mistress, chocolate.
Joanne Harris is one of our best-loved and most versatile novelists. She first appeared on the scene with the bestselling Chocolat (made into an Oscar-nominated film with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp), which turned into the sensuous Lansquenet trilogy (with Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur le Cure). She has since written acclaimed novels in such diverse genres as fantasy based on Norse myth (Runemarks, Runelight, The Gospel of Loki), and the Malbry cycle of dark psychological thrillers (Gentlemen & Players, Blueeyedboy, and now Different Class). Born in Barnsley, of an English father and a French mother, she spent fifteen years as a teacher before (somewhat reluctantly) becoming a full-time writer. In 2013, she was awarded an MBE. She lives in Yorkshire, plays bass in a band first formed when she was sixteen, works in a shed in her garden, spends far too much time online and occasionally dreams of faking her own death and going to live in Hawaii.
The battle lines between church and chocolate are drawn by this British (and part French) author in her appealing debut about a bewitching confectioner who settles in a sleepy French village and arouses the appetites of the pleasure-starved parishioners. Young widow Vianne Roche's mouthwatering bonbons, steaming mugs of liqueur-laced cocoa and flaky cream-filled patisserie don't earn her a warm welcome from the stern prelate of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. In Francis Reynaud's zeal to enforce strict Lenten vows of self-denial, he regards his sybaritic neighbor with suspicion and disdain. Undaunted, Vianne garners support from the town's eccentrics, chiefly Armande Voizin, the oldest living resident, a self-professed sorceress who senses in Vianne a kindred spirit. A fun-loving band of river gypsies arrives, and a colorful pageant unfurls. The novel's diary form‘counting down the days of Lent until Easter‘is suspenseful, and Harris takes her time unreeling the skein of evil that will prove to be Reynaud's undoing. As a witch's daughter who inherited her mother's profound distrust of the clergy, Vianne never quite comes to life, but her child, Anouk, is an adorable sprite, a spunky six-year-old already wise to the ways of an often inhospitable world. Gourmand Harris's tale of sin and guilt embodies a fond familiarity with things French that will doubtless prove irresistible to many readers. Rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Canada, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Italy, Finland, Denmark, Brazil, Israel, Norway, Greece, the Czech Republic, Poland. (Feb.)
"Mouthwatering ... a feelgood book of the first order ... your senses are left reeling. Read it" Observer "Is this the best book ever written? Truly excellent ... Harris's achievement is not only in her story, in her insight and humour and the wonderful picture of small-town life in rural France, but also in her writing" Literary Review "Sensuous and thought-provoking ... subtle and brilliant" Daily Telegraph "A celebration of pleasure, of love, of tolerance" Observer "An addictive read ... haunting, obsessive and just a little nutty, like a freshly made praline" -- Elisabeth Luard, author of "Family Life"