Chocolat by Joanne Harris

When Vianne Rocher and her young daughter arrive in a small, insular French town dressed in red with no husband in sight to set up a chocolate shop the church curate, Francis Reynaud, immediately sees the two a threat to their wholesome values and god-fearing ways. Vianne herself has no interest in religion but she is willing to spread her 'magic' in this small town by enchanting the village children and instinctively knowing what everyone's favorite confection might be. She quickly wins friends with the old and young alike but is mistrusted by pere Reynaud and his Bible groupies. When Vianne decides to host a chocolate festival on Easter Sunday, pere Reynaud finds her audacity insulting and begins a battle with the lively chocolatier that will forever change their small town.

This rich narrative alternates between Vianne and pere Reyaund's point of view with devastating results: all beauty, goodness, and even evil is laid bare for the reader to see. Vianne is competely open concerning all things in her past - the good and bad - she is funny, loving, and so magical. I was constantly lost in her decadent descriptions of her many chocolates. It was just so sensual - but not overtly or oddly so - which became especially obvious any time it switched to Reynaud's narration. Sanctimonious, self righteous and proud, Reynaud was a perfect foil to Vianne brightness and beauty.
The movie itself stayed pretty true to the book, but I must say I actually like the movie better. When does that ever happen?? I constantly had an image of Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp as Vianne and Roux while reading this and their characterizations were perfect. Not even to mention the lovely Judi Dench as Armande - she's the only woman who could make Armande come alive like that. Although the book was magical and beautifully written I absolutely HATED the ending. The movie ended so much better. I don't want to spoil anything here: but what was Vianne thinking?!?

series reading order:
~ Chocolat
~ The Girl with No Shadow

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