A tantalising novel about the ultimate luxury and sin- that dark mistress, chocolate.
Joanne Harris's Whitbread-shortlisted Chocolat was
made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and
Johnny Depp. She is the author of many other bestselling novels,
including Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur le
Cure, both also featuring Vianne Rocher, as is her new novel
The Strawberry Thief. She has also 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 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 and flute in a band first formed when she was sixteen, and works in a shed in her garden.
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"