Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Review  chocbyjh Chocolat by Joanne Harris, Penguin Books 1999, 306 pages.

“Part fairy tale, laden with high farce and laden with tongue -in-cheek humor drenched with savage wit and bursts of wisdom, suffused with lush detail and finely drawn interesting characters…”

The above is the quote from the back of the book, attributed to the Philadelphia Inquirer.    I really am  not sure I would call this a fairy tale and I know I certainly wouldn’t call it a high farce.    However, it does have some magic in it…    :P

“Delectable…  Delicious.”   – USA Today

Now, I do agree 100% with the USA Today.    The descriptions of chocolate goodies alone are worth reading this book!

MOTIVATION for READING:   This was one of the books I snapped up when I weeded out non-large print books from the nursing home library.   (which, now that I think about it – I will need to check to see if Madeline will want to read this book…)

WHAT it’s ABOUT:    It’s about a lady with a young daughter who blows into a small town in France during Mardi Gras and decides to set up a chocolate shop.    By Easter, she has made friends with many of the locals but has made enemies of a few as well.   One of these enemies is the local parish priest.   We get half the story from his perspective; the other half from the chocolate lady.

WHAT’s GOOD:   The descriptions, the flow of the story.   I enjoyed the switch of perspective to get the sense of how the same events can be interpreted so very differently.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    ***** SPOILERS*****    I sensed a few unfinished minor (maybe not minor?) story lines that never get wrapped up.     On the other hand, it’s just these kinds of questions the pop up in my head that demand I talk about and discuss this!      I mean, I get that we have to figure out that the priest has a past and as a boy caught his mother and the priest then in a compromising position, shall we say.  And that he set fire to the gypsy’s boats, again – when he was a kid.   But I felt that was too loosely hinted or not pulled together ?  or something.      Too many holes and unanswered whys and hows on that backstory stuff.

FINAL THOUGHTS:    I’m glad that I saw the movie so very long ago.    It’s good to have only the vague recollection – and I thought the book to movie adaptation was very true to the plot and  and certainly, the characters.      I did have Juliette Binoche in my head as Vianne but the Johnny Depp vision didn’t impose on the Roux character – which is fine.       What I didn’t expect was the negative criticism of the Catholic faith.     Did I read too much into this part?     Anyway, this book did have more philosophy than I expected.

For a terrific review that captures my thoughts even better than I could express myself, visit the Bookfool’s review HERE.

Four Pie:  fourpie

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12 Responses to “Chocolat by Joanne Harris”


  1. 1 bermudaonion July 12, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I read this one years ago and really enjoyed it too.

  2. 2 Nymeth July 12, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I’ve been on the fence about this one for so long! I’ve heard very good things about it, and also some not-so-good things. But you know what, I might as well give it a try. You can’t go too wrong with descriptions of chocolate goodies, can you? :P

  3. 3 Joanne July 12, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    I read this, and I watched the movie. But I honestly still cannot decide whether I liked it or not.

  4. 4 Violet July 13, 2009 at 12:50 am

    I’m really confused about whether to read this book or not. I just read another good review of this book last week. What if I just watch the movie instead?

  5. 5 Care July 13, 2009 at 6:59 am

    @Kathy – you and I seem to agree on books, even though we do read a lot of different kinds of books. How many have you read this year already, anyway?

    @Nymeth – you are too funny! It’s only 300 pages or so; it wouldn’t take you long to finish, I bet. It’s those chunksters that I never can decide if I want to read or not! imo, Chocolat is light on the magic and could be accused of being anti-religion or maybe endorses a touch of amorality? It really was on for ‘thought pauses’ on my part.

    @Joanne – oh, I get that. I think I rated it high because of how I reacted to it – in that I wasn’t sure if I agreed with the message or if there WAS a message! does that make sense? I do want to re-see the movie. (re-see?! I’m not sure I’ve ever typed that but I know I say it…)

    @Violet – you and Nymeth, huh? I don’t remember if the movie touched on the underlying issue of morality that the book suggests. Goodness, I think this book is staying with me! Which reminds me – I haven’t yet searched for other blogger reviews of this… Iliana and Vasilly liked it and Eva mentioned that the book and movie were so different and yet, plot line – I think they were very much the same. It’s the tone that’s different. Here’s that post I wrote that everyone commented on: http://bkclubcare.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/library-loot-june-10-16-2009/#comments

  6. 6 Jenny July 13, 2009 at 8:25 am

    I read it years ago, when I was still in high school, and I remember finding the priest guy very creepy. In a way that sort of spoiled my enjoyment of the book. Did you find that at all?

  7. 8 iliana July 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I loved the book and the movie! It’s been years since I read the book but I do remember the descriptions of her shop and the goodies. Did you know there’s a sequel to this? I have it but just haven’t gotten around to it.

  8. 10 Anna July 13, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    I haven’t seen the movie, and I’m still not sure I want to read the book. It sounds interesting, though.

    I can’t honestly say I would have gone out of my way to read this – which is odd to say because I usually love the book to move experience, but now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I did. I really want to see the movie again, now and see how off it was.

  9. 11 Care's Niece Rachel August 5, 2009 at 9:38 am

    First off, this is Care’s niece:I really enjoyed the book, mostly because it flowed smoothly and was a quick read. I loved the little snippets of french, and the descriptions of the main characters chocolate creations. I didn’t think it wrapped up really well, but if there’s a sequel, I’ll definitely read it!

  10. 12 beastmomma April 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Hello Care,
    Thanks so much for giving me this book. I finally read and reviewed it. My review is here: http://beastmomma.squarespace.com/from-shelf-to-hand/2010/4/17/chocolat.html

    I too was surprised with how different the book was from the movie, but I still enjoyed both. I hope that I get to see you again soon and we can discuss more books in person!


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