Who wrote this book and when?
Joanne Harris published this in 1999.

Has there been a film version?
Yes; it came out in 2000 and starred Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Alfred Molina, and Judi Dench.

Who are the main characters?
Vianne Rocher – a French woman with special powers she gained from her mother, she knows how to bake and opens a chocolate shop
Cure Francis Reynaud – the local curate, greatly disapproves of Vianne’s shop and any other sort of temptation
Armande Voizin – an elderly lady in the town who has broken with tradition and is a bit eccentric
Roux – a handsome gypsy
Josephine Muscat – a woman married to an abusive husband, she is withdrawn and is known for stealing things
Anouk – Vianne’s daughter, who has an imaginary rabbit friend named Pantoufle

What’s it about?
Vianne Rocher and her daughter, Anouk, arrive in the small French town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of the Lenten season. Being the sort who move from town to town every few months, they open up a chocolate shop to support them for what Vianne plans on being a short stay. Nearly immediately, Vianne has a run-in with the local priest, Francis Reynaud, who disapproves of everything about her. Their battle of wills proceeds through the Lent and Easter season as many of the local townsfolk soften toward Vianne and her abilities to provide them with exactly the sweets they desire.

Do I recommend you read this book?
Yes, I adore this book.

How did this book make my list?
The movie came out in 2000, and before I watched it I wanted to read the book. So I picked it up at the local used bookstore and I’ve read it at least once a year since then.

Has it won any awards?
No.

Favorite quotes:
“Her black eyes fizzed with laughter.” – p 83

“Still more of this interminable rain. It falls like a piece of the sky upended to pour misery onto the aquarium life below. The children, bright plastic ducks in their waterproofs and boots, squawk and waddle across the square, their cries ricocheting off the low clouds.” – p 101

Anything else?
There is a sequel to this book called “The Girl with no Shadow” if you’re in the US, and “The Lollypop Shoes” if you’re elsewhere.

Personal thoughts:
This book is an exquisite story. I’ve not read any of Harris’s other works, but I am excited to. The characters in it shine, the story is wonderful but not overly dramatic – and it’s not predictable either. No matter how many times I read it, the story always draws me in and keeps me turning pages. Whether it’s Vianne and her mystical background, Armande and her wild golden days, Josephine and her struggle to reclaim herself, or Reynaud and his desperate attempts to garner approval from his predecessors and the image of God he has in his own mind – I care about every character. I only wish the story went on longer – which is why I’m excited to read the sequel as soon as I can find it. A warning however, reading this book will inevitably make you crave chocolate and other sweets!

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