17 February 2011

Five Quarters of the Orange - Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris is one of my all time favourite authors. She wrote the beautiful, sensuous book that is 'Chocolat', and it's sequel, 'The Lollipop Shoes', which is equally as wonderful.

A lot of her books are set in France: Les Laveuses, Lansquenet sous Tannes, Les Salants. I find this very interesting as a lot of her books have something to do with food. From Chocolate to Wine and Oranges, Joanne Harris is exceedingly good at describing the food in such a way that the reader salivates at the thought and longs for the taste.

Not only does Harris write about food, she also has written some short stories as well as some psychological thrillers. I particularly enjoyed her first book, 'The Evil Seed', which is about a man who rescues a mysterious and strangely eerie woman from drowning, who then goes on to torment him throughout his life. I won't give away the ending though, just in case you want to read it.

I have recently finished 'Five Quarters of the Orange', a book about a widow named Framboise, who comes back to Les Laveuses, her childhood home, with a dark secret in tow.

The blurb reads:
Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake - but hiding a deadly undertow beneath it's moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie - and lets her memory play strange games.#

Again, this book is a writing triumph for Harris, whose descriptions of places, food and people never fail to disappoint me. The story was slow to start, but after a couple of pages I was hooked. The beauty of her storytelling is as apparent here as it is in the highly acclaimed 'Chocolat'. There are twists and turns that even I, as an avid fan, did not guess at.

The end, although quick, was done quite neatly and answered all of my questions - something I like in everything that I read or watch. Her character development, too, is exquisite. It feels like I know all her characters intimately after I finish a book, which means a happy ending makes me happy, again, something i personally prefer.

Overall this is a perfect portrayal of a childhood in wartime France as well the workings of an old woman and her family history of betrayal. It is dark, perhaps the darkest out of her food trilogy ('Chocolat' and 'Blackberry Wine' being the other two), but I know it will never leave me, as with all her books so far.

The cover, Five Quarters of the Orange