Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review: Chocolat

I have been meaning to read this book by Joanne Harris for, oh, 10 years, and at long last I picked it up at the library. I was prepared to be wowed. I was, instead, woefully underwowed.

So the story, for the other dozen people out there who haven't read this NY Times bestseller or watched the movie, centers on a sleepy town in France that comes awake when Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk come to town and open up a store that specializes in all kinds of chocolate delicacies. The conflict overriding the story is between Vianne, who is somewhat of a psychic, and Reynaud, the town's priest.

As I said, I really wanted to like this book. But ultimately, it fell flat for me. The characters seemed like ones I've seen in other books dozens of times: the kind old rebellious woman and her busybody, rich daughter. The stuttering boy and his overprotective mother. The priest with the secret past. The important man in town who beats his wife. The gypsies, who aren't really thieves but who are persecuted by the townspeople nonetheless.

Harris's writing is nice, although often a bit too flowery for my taste. I understand that the writing reflects the richness of the chocolate, but it was a little much for me at times. I began to crave Hemingway-esque simplicity.

And, strangely, I never craved chocolate throughout the whole book.

I am going to watch the movie. I have a feeling this might be one of the very few times I like the movie more than the book.


Laura said...

The movie was different - and I liked it enough to watch it to the end.

I read Chocolat last year, and I think the sequel, The Girl with No Shadow, was better. I also have Five Quarters of the Orange, but have not read it yet.

Marbel said...

I couldn't get through this book. I agree with your review, and have to add that the stereotypical priest character annoyed me. It's been several years; I can't remember exactly, but I remember being frustrated by it.

Rebecca Reid said...

I am so sad you didn't love this one! I have it on my pile and I was hoping it was a good one (with a title like that, I already get a chocolate craving).

Oh too bad!

Jennifer said...

I haven't seen the movie or read the book, but have a feeling based on your review that I would feel the same way.

I haven't been here in ages -- it was an old comment that reminded me of this place. Think I'll have to add you to my blogroll the next time I update.

GutsyWriter said...

Is this the same movie that I saw about six years ago? Perhaps its something different.

mummazappa said...

uh oh, i bought this book last week and is on my TBR pile, as chocolat is one of my favourite movies. maybe if i go into reading it not expecting much i'll be pleasantly suprised :-)

Framed said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I was interested in the books you read in November. I have a different book by Harris sitting on my shelf. I hope it is better than Chocolat.

Petunia said...

I didn't care for the book or the movie. Harris just isn't an author for me. But I did want to eat chocolate the whole time I was reading it.