|The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Poignant and enjoyable fiction for women with romance, chocolate, and some great insights into cultural experiences in Paris.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 440||Date: March 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted for Romantic Novelist Association Romantic Comedy Novel 2014
Anna has been working as a supervisor and taster at a chocolate factory. She’s 30, never much cared about school, and recently split with her boyfriend. Life isn’t particularly exciting, but she’s reasonably content with her lot. Then a freak accident at work, followed by a nasty infection in hospital leaves her unemployed, apathetic and with no idea what her future holds.
While in hospital, Anna became friendly with Claire, who - years previously - was the French teacher at Anna’s school. To pass the time, since both are bored, Claire teaches Anna some more French and then Claire suggests that Anna might take a temporary job in Paris with an old friend of hers.
The narrative is mostly set in the 21st century, following Anna’s adventure when she sets out into the unknown, and starts to learn some independence. But interleaved throughout is the story of Claire’s own adventure in Paris when she was 17. Her upbringing was very different from Anna’s; she was an only child, and rather stifled and protected by an over-strict father However she was allowed to be an au pair for the summer before she took her A-levels, living with an old friend of her mother’s.
Although the two women are a generation apart in age, and grew up in completely different circumstances, their stories intertwine beautifully as each begins to experience a new culture, and to feel a growing fluency and comfort in the language. Claire at 17 was entranced by the chocolate maker Thierry, just starting out with hand-made specialities. It’s his shop, now famous throughout France, where Anna is now working. Thierry takes quite a shine to Anna, but has become seriously obese as he has grown older, and it’s his son whom Anna finds oddly attractive.
There are romantic threads; indeed, romance and a broken relationship is the trigger for much of the story. But there’s also a great deal in this book about French culture, and an amazing amount of detail about the process of chocolate-making. By the time I finished, I felt as if I had learned a great deal, yet at no point did I feel that I was being coerced into education. The information was in the context of the story, and never strayed, as some books do, into a tedious display of the author’s knowledge.
The writing flows well, and it was an ideal book for me to read in the airport and on a five-hour flight. There’s a quotation on the front of the book from Sophie Kinsella, saying, You’ll devour it in one sitting. I didn’t go quite that far - it’s not a short novel, with well over 400 pages, and I don’t read THAT fast. I eventually finished it the following morning. Nevertheless, it was light enough that I could keep reading even when tired; interesting enough that I never wanted to put it down and pick up something different. The characters of both Claire and Anna got right under my skin, even when I realised that the ending was going to be bittersweet, tinged with sadness and regret for what might have been.
There are some chocolate recipes at the back of the book. A few are very basic, one looks immensely complex, and one or two look quite interesting although I don’t suppose I will remember to check this book the next time I want an interesting and different recipe. Still, it makes a nice touch.
Recommended, if you like a story that’s both light and poignant in a French setting.
Many thanks to the publishers for sending this to The Bookbag.
If chocolate is your passion, there are several other novels with the theme, including Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley or the one which has almost become a classic, also based in France: Chocolat by Joanne Harris.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan at Amazon.com.
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