It isn’t often you receive a letter from the dead.
When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she allows the wind to blow her back to the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Lansquenet is different now: women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the church: a minaret.
Nor is it only the incomers from North Africa that have brought change. Father Reynaud, Vianne’s erstwhile adversary, is disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him now?
Chocolat is one of my favourite books so when I heard about a third book in the series was to be released (the second is The Lollipop Shoes) I was rather excited. However it was sitting on my shelf for quite a while before I actually got around to reading it, there were challenge books to read, and review books. Despite wanting to read it it’s priority was a little low. I finally decided to finish reading it rather than reading a book for the wishlist challenge last month.
One problem which I have with the Chocolat series as a whole is how spaced out each instalment has been. I first read Chocolat when I was about 16, I read it a couple of times before I read The Lollipop Shoes but still managed to forget a few elements which made links more difficult. I remember more or less nothing from The Lollipop Shoes now, so it made references to things that had happened then rather difficult to understand.
Luckily I was able to enjoy Peaches for Monsieur le Curé as a novel in itself, and the links with Chocolat were rather strong which made it easier to make those links. It did take me a long time to read, not because I wasn’t enjoying it however, or because it was difficult, but rather because I kept getting too drawn into the books I was reading on kindle (I read Life After Life at the same time for one thing) and because I tend to get less time to read my paperbacks than my kindle books.
I think maybe something that happened in The Lollipop Shoes may have been important in that Vianne grew. Last time we visited Lansquenet the priest (Francis Reynaud) was seen as a stubborn, backwards, and unaccepting man. In this we can sympathise with him more, maybe he is a little conceited, and maybe his views are a little black and white, but he is generally well meaning. Poor Francis is rather out of popularity and everything he thought he was doing for Lansquenet seems to have gone wrong, until it seems everyone has turned on him.
It is quite a testament to Harris’ writing that she can write about the same person, and even at times the same situation but completely change the reader’s outlook. You can certainly interpret Francis’ actions in Chocolat as being well intentioned, but, probably because Vianne doesn’t see it that way, you don’t. Whereas in Peaches for Monsieur le Curé she sees Francis in a different light, and so do we.
Something I tend to like about Harris’ writing is her skill in setting an atmosphere. The descriptions of chocolate in Chocolat make you want to visit that shop, and in Peaches for Monsieur the atmosphere of the Muslim area of the village is so well built that you can almost imagine yourself there.
As with Chocolat Peaches for Monsieur le Curé seems quite pondering but has a great climax, which doesn’t come as a complete shock dur to the elements peppered throughout the rest of the book. However what the climax is does come as somewhat of a shock.
Note: in the US PEaches for Monsieur le Curé goes by the name Peaches for Father Francis. (I often wonder what US publishers think of their readership with the way that they change book titles.)
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