I'm not a huge fan of chocolate. I knew it already. I'm more into those very unhealthy and very artificial pick 'n mix sweets, or cheesecakes or apple crumble, or ice-cream. But you don't have to love chocolate to enjoy this book, and I'm the living proof. I didn't crave for truffles or for easter eggs while I was reading it. In fact, it took me a while to get into it, but it won me eventually.
At first I was annoyed by Harris' use of the past and the present tense at the same time. I would have preferred if she sticked to one of the two. I know I'm a bit fussy, but I really tried not to be bothered by it. In the end, it was Vianne and her little daughter that made me love the book. Vianne is such a charming character, I was really fascinated by her, and even more maybe by her daughter Anouk, so wild and confident and understanding, the way only 6 years-old kids can be.
The story is a well-known one: Vianne, a traveler, decides that Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, a small town in the French countryside, with its sad and grumpy faces, is in serious need of a bit of magic. But young Father Reynaud doesn't think so. It's just the beginning of Lent and he feels that the opening of a tempting Chocolate shop will tackle his authority and control over his "herd". Vianne Rocher is obviously ready for the challenge. All she needs is time, cause she has more than a special gift. She can read into people's soul and tastes, guessing exactly which one is everyone's favourite. Her kind and welcoming manners will do the rest. Slowly she manages to break the wall of hostility bringing a whole new approach to life for many people in the community, which involves cherishing pleasure, joy and friendship.
It's crazy how much the book is different from the movie. I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. The movie was a light fairy tale. The book is much more complex than that. It tells us of Vianne's past, of her fears and nightmares and of her pagan beliefs, so brave to be shown in such a small and religious community. It also tells the story from the opposite perspective of the priest, which didn't do him any good, anyway! To those who might be offended by Harris's description of a Christian priest, I might say that she didn't invent anything. Yes, she chose one of the worst examples that could be, but it serves the story so well and it's also so true. Life is supposed to be enjoyed. Chocolate (or cheesecake for me) is there to help!