This book by the very acclaimed author, Joanne Harris, left me with quite a bitter aftertaste. The story is about a single mother and chocolatier, Vianne Rocher, who arrives in the quaint French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent with her young daughter Anouk. She sets up her chocolaterie, La Céleste Praline, just opposite the village church. Her flamboyance and audacity irks the village priest Francis Reynaud, who takes it upon himself to boycott her business and also sees to it that he publicly denounces her in front of his congregation. However, Vianne goes about her day despite the seething disapprovals from Reynaud and his loyal cronies. In fact, she manages to charm many of the villagers through her irresistible confectioneries and gains their unflinching support, admiration and confidence. This further infuriates Reynaud to the point of psychosis and paranoia leading to spiteful actions ultimately causing his own tomfoolery.
The plot does sound tempting as does the evocative prose on chocolate and decadent French confectionery. However, Joanne Harris gets a little too carried away and forgets trying to reign in her condemnation of the church. Her forever babble on the proclivities of the church and its believers is extremely one dimensional. It almost seems as if the author is pushing forward her beliefs onto the reader. The characterisation of the priest remains a caricature. The various other characters in the book are poorly etched with uninteresting plot lines. For that matter, Vianne’s character itself appears to be quite implausible. Despite a very unconventional and irrational childhood, tethered on anxiety and dubiety, and now facing the villagers’ ire and reproach; she seems to appear overtly secure, unaffected and very mundane. Though the book talks about patriarchy, sexism and gender based violence, none of it is dealt with the nuance and sensitivity that it deserves. If anything, it’s a very kindergarten approach at that. Yes, the language in the book is rich and exquisite. Although, I wish that the author had tempered her story to perfection as Vianne does her des chocolats.
This chocolat is a Cadbury presented as a La Maison du Chocolat. Eat at your own risk.
~ JUST A GAY BOY. 🍫