“It is a relatively little-known fact that, over the course of a single year, about twenty million letters are delivered to the dead. People forget to stop the mail – those grieving widows and prospective heirs – and so magazine subscriptions remain uncanceled; distant friends unnotified; library fines unpaid. That’s twenty million circulars, bank statements, credit cards, love letters, junk mail, greetings, gossip and bills dropping daily onto doormats or parquet floors, thrust casually through railings, wedged into letter boxes, accumulating in stairwells, left unwanted on porches and steps, never to reach their addressee. The dead don’t care. More importantly, neither do the living. The living just follow their petty concerns, quite unaware that very close by, a miracle is taking place. The dead are coming back to life.”
In the sequel to the critically acclaimed book “Chocolat”, we catch up with Vianne and Anouk Rocher after they’ve moved on from Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. They are now living in Paris, with Vianne having had another daughter, the impish and capricious Rosette – now four. The family is living under different names, caretakers of a rented chocolate shop. Vianne has completely given up her magics in order to protect her daughters. She’s in a relationship with a stable Parisian named Thierry and is trying to convince herself she’s happy with this normal life. Then Zozie blows into their neighborhood. Entrancing all she meets, Zozie is flamboyant, beautiful, and capable of powers similar to Vianne’s. Quickly setting her sights on her fellow witch, Zozie befriends Anouk and Vianne. But as she grows closer and more depended on by the little family, Vianne comes to realize that Zozie is after much more than friendship and her family is in the most danger it could possibly be in. She will have to make a choice between the life she has created and the life she is running from and pay a price for either choice she makes.
If you’re expecting another delightfully sweet book like “Chocolat” in this sequel, you’ll be a bit disappointed. While reading Chocolat, you inevitably begin to crave sweets, you love all the characters – even finding room in your heart for the curate in the end. In this book, the sense of danger is always present – and sometimes overwhelming. Zozie is a menacing character who you get to know right away, as she is one of the three narrators, but the other characters are slow to catch on to her true personality. Which to me is positively infuriating.
However, if you are a fan of Joanne Harris’s other works – such as “Holy Fools” or “Five Quarters of the Orange” then this book will be right up your way. She manages the valance of characters brilliantly, switching from Vianne to Anouk to Zozie – which feels effortless except for the fact that all three have similar voices when it comes to magical matters (the entire last third of the book). You know right away who the villainess is, posing Vianne and Zozie against each other before Vianne even knows it, with Anouk bouncing around in the middle. Once again, Harris has wonderful word choice and descriptive abilities. She can bring their little corner of Paris to life in a few swift sentences, placing you in the center of the battle. Which is the best place to be in a book like this.
“The Girl With No Shadow” was originally titled “The Girl with the Lollipop Shoes” in the United Kingdom. It was written by Joanne Harris and published in 2007.