Chocolat

Author: Joanne Harris
Reviewer's Age: Grade 10

In the face of temptation, Francis Reynaud is a weak man, much weaker than his hardened, stoic exterior intimates. When presented with stores of chocolate reserved for his town's chocolate festival, he is vulnerable. Reynaud cannot resist, and he devours the scrumptious confections with indiscriminate taste and a ferocious intensity.

So beckons Joanne Harris' Chocolat, a work seemingly part fantasy and part fairy tale, lush and laden with delicate detail and a soft touch that lures the reader into its decadent dream world. Harris weaves for us her enchanting tale of the beguiling Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk, their origins shrouded in mystery, who sweep into the small French town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and threaten to wreak havoc on people much set in their ways. Indeed, when Vianne opens a whimsical chocolate shop across from the town's church, a challenge is proclaimed against Lenten vows in the eyes of the town's devout. And, as her ability to discern a customer's troubles and ameliorate them with the perfect treat slowly coaxes the sleepy town out of hibernation, Vianne's actions also spark dissent from cure of the local parish, Francis Reynaud. Convinced only a person conspiring evil could devise such indulgence and sin, Reynaud concocts an elaborate scheme to prevent Vianne's chocolate festival on Easter Sunday and soon sparks a bitter division between those bound to tradition and those who relish their newfound taste for temptation and intrigue. Harris' savory story is beset with well-drawn characters rendered with dramatic elan and a spirited, meandering plot which captivates one's attention and refuses to let go. . . The novel is an intoxicating blend and is, on all accounts, a work of unrivalled beauty and tenderness that will leave the reader clamoring for more delectable Chocolat.