27 September 2012

Peaches for Monsieur le Cure - Joanne Harris

The third book in Joanne Harris's Chocolat series promises another beautifully written adventure from Lanquenet-sous-Tannes.

It has been 8 years since Vianne Rocher left Lansquenet, and things have changed drastically. Les Marauds now houses a huge population of Magrebins, and the minaret of their Mosque looms above the houses. The catholic church is in disarray, and Reynaud is in trouble. And then there is Ines Bencharki, whose prescence in the village distrubs everyone - French and Muslim alike.

One of the most wonderful things about Harris's writing is the way that her characters are so realistic and compelling. Vianne Rocher is a much-loved character who we can really sympathise with, and it is brilliant that the author has once again given her legions of readers another story with her in it. The writing style is also exactly what we have come to expect from Joanne Harris. Her decriptions caress your senses and the plot is just fast enough to  keep your interest without becoming actiony.

The plot and the ending will keep you on your toes. The plot builds slowly but keeps forming questions in your head, but the cresendo is fast and keeps you turning the pages. There are a couple of lovely twists in there too; the mystery surrounding Ines Bencharki is interesting and it is only revealed at the very end of the book. You never guess who she is until she tells you, and her story is compelling, startling and emotional.

The themes of this book are interesting too. There is a lot of emphasis on religion, which is a theme she has delved into before in 'Holy Fools' and in 'Chocolat'. A theme that recurs in the series is prejudice, as the people of the village seem to have so many of these, this time against an unmarried woman with a child. Sound familiar?

However, this book was not quite as engrossing as the first two. There is not as much 'magic' and  it is not as much to do with the food as to do with the people of the village this time. Hardcore Harris fans may miss this, but for the rest of the population, this will be an excellent book full of human interest.

For the most impact, read the first two books. References to the past are plentiful, so if you havn't read them, chances are that you won't get the whole picture or why certain things are so distressing.

Even though the plot isn't quite as enchanting as the other two, this book still gets an 8 out of 10 from me. My favourite is still 'The Lollipop Shoes'.