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By the author of the bestselling CHOCOLAT - a powerful novel of a hardy island community fighting the encroaching seas.
Joanne Harris is the author of the Whitbread-shortlisted Chocolat (made into a major film starring Juliette Binoche), Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Jigs & Reels, Sleep Pale Sister, Gentlemen & Players and, with Fran Warde, The French Kitchen- A Cookbook and The French Market- More Recipes from a French Kitchen. She lives in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, with her husband and daughter.
Family history meets village rivalry in Harris's poignant fourth novel, an understated passion play set on the provincial French island of Le Devin. Madeleine Prasteau leaves her Paris apartment to return to the island village of Les Salants, where she discovers that her father, a widowed boat owner, is going downhill along with the village itself as the rival town of La Houssinire grows and prospers. Despite her father's chilly greeting, Madeleine spruces up the family home, and when she meets an attractive, mysterious stranger named Flynn she gets involved in a project to save Les Salants by building a homemade reef to restore the fast-eroding beach. The project gets complicated when Madeleine realizes that Flynn has ties to Brismand, a rival of her father's, who controls local commerce in La Houssinire. The reef project succeeds, but with a bitter aftertaste when Madeleine's older sister, Adrienne, moves back to the island and her father becomes infatuated with Adrienne's children. Sibling rivalry fades to the background when Madeleine learns that Flynn's ties to Brismand extend into her own family history, and she discovers that Flynn was an integral part of a romantic triangle involving her father and Brismand. Harris develops her beguiling story in layers, drawing Madeleine into the village life she loves and loathes while exploring the nuances of island living. Despite the narrowly focused setting, Harris exposes a wide range of passions and emotions as Madeline gets involved with Flynn against the effective backdrop of the various family and village rivalries. This book lacks the lurid erotic power of Chocolat, but Harris compensates for the lowered levels of passion and eros by writing with power and grace about the family ties that bind. 6-city author tour. (Sept.) Forecast: Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange were bestsellers, and Coastliners should match their performance so long as readers don't balk at the absence of a culinary hook.
The author of that amazing bestseller Chocolat (now a film) has come up with an accomplished novel about an island community. Mado, daughter of the boat builder Prasteau, returns to the island of Le Devin in northern France following the death of her mother. The island is divided into two warring factions, La Houssiniere on one side and Les Salants on the other, poorer side. Mado belongs to Les Salants, and decides to build a massive reef which (it is hoped) will divert the tide and help retain the beach. This stirs up all sorts of problems, including an old tragedy. On top of all this, Mado falls for a flame-haired stranger. It is a tale full of good things and the writing is hugely imaginative. A wonderful read and a truly powerful story.
As in her previous work, Harris (Chocolat) is a master at the long, quiet, atmospheric novel in which it appears that nothing much is happening. Here she describes the rich and rough shoreline of Le Devin, a small French island with a quickly eroding coastline, inhabited by generations of families whose feuds are the equal of the Montagues and the Capulets. Then there are smaller feuds between fishermen and tourist-mongers, plus a vague family feud between Madeleine and her sister Adrienne. At first it seems nothing much is happening, until we realize that landscape approaches the level of metaphor, and while listeners were dreamily lost in her lush descriptions read by Vivienne Benesch, the author has portrayed the lives of her characters as changing dramatically, and irreversibly. Only in the last third of the book do things happen quickly, and importantly enough one is tempted to go back and replay other sections. Yes, all the seeds are there, and we should have guessed them, but it's a tribute to Harris's writing that we did not. While a few events are clichd and almost predictable, there are enough surprises to satisfy listeners. Short, clearly focused chapters make this ideal for long, quiet drives, or while resting lazily before sleep. Highly recommended.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.