My Favourite Book: Why Chocolat is Samantha's choice

With our treasured libraries shut during the coronavirus lockdown, we are keeping in touch with West Sussex librarians through our weekly My Favourite Book series.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 12:06 pm
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 12:07 pm
Samantha Kimber - My Favourite Book

This week Samantha Kimber, library assistant at Midhurst Library, tells us why Chocolat by Joanne Harris will forever be her choice.

“This is my guilty pleasure. It’s a book I love to read time and time again. It’s a great read but be warned it does make you feel hungry!

“The story is set in a French village called Lansquenet. It follows the exploits of Vianne Rocher and her young daughter Anouk, new arrivals, who set up a chocolate boutique opposite the church in the run-up to Easter.

“Vianne is looking for a place to settle after years of travelling and hopes that Lansquenet might finally be the place.

“She opens her shop cum café and starts making friends with her new customers. All is going well until the local priest Father Reynaud decides that Vianne is a dangerous woman, here to tempt his parishioners with sinful chocolates during the time of Lent. And so battle lines are drawn between Vianne, the exotic pagan chocolatier and Father Reynaud the pompous catholic priest. As the story unfolds we learn how this rivalry affects the two antagonists and how the villagers are caught between them.

“Lansquenet is a great place to escape to. It is full of the sights and sounds of a typical French village, with plenty of gossip too! Through Vianne we get to know some of the colourful characters who live there and uncover their secrets. There is plenty of drama in this book, so don’t be deceived by its cover. It may look like another chick lit title, but within its pages it tackles serious subjects such as social prejudice, sexism and marital abuse.

“Above all, Chocolat is a story about family, friendship and the love of good food and that is why it’s my favourite read. Chocolat engages your senses, it invites you to smell the chocolate melting in Vianne’s shop and to taste the lovely breakfast pastries she’s just baked. I did say it would make you feel hungry!

“Chocolat was recommended to me by a friend way back in 1999 when the book was first published. It was an instant hit with readers and critics alike. It has sold over a million print

copies. It was so successful Hollywood came calling and the book was made into a movie a year later starring Juliette Binoche as Vianne and Alfred Molina as Father Reynaud. I am sorry to say I was not that impressed with the film. I really didn’t think it did the book justice. It was too sickly sweet for me and Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Roux was pretty dire.

“Perhaps I’m biased, I tend to favour books over film adaptations. But if you get the chance, read the book, watch the movie and see if you agree.

“Oh, in case you’re wondering who Roux is, he floats into the book on his canal boat with his friends the river people, travellers passing through Lansquenet. Vianne and Anouk befriend them. Vianne, a nomad herself, travelled the world with her mother living hand to mouth. So she knows all too well how it feels to be an outsider.

“The river people receive a mixed response when they try to get supplies in the village. Tolerance is something that comes easy to some in Lansquenet and not to others. One person who has no difficulty in embracing them is Armande Voizin one of my favourite characters in the book. The older I’ve got the more I appreciate her.”

Following the latest advice in relation to COVID-19, all West Sussex Libraries are closed until further notice, but there are thousands of eBooks, eAudiobooks, eComics, eMagazines and eNewspapers available frree to library members via the eLibrary service.

Visit: http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/elibrary to explore the collection.

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