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Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris

It’s over seven years since I read Chocolat, set in a small French town called Lansquenet. I liked it, on the whole, and often wondered what happened to Vianne, the chocolate-making and rather mystical heroine, not to mention the people whose lives she affected so deeply. A couple of years later I read The Lollipop Shoes which purported to be a sequel, but really stood alone. It was set in Paris and rather different in style. I liked it, but somehow it did not feel as if it involved the same people.

Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Sequel to Chocolat, this is a story of religious and cultural clashes, filled with mysteries and surrounded by the delicious aromas of peach jam and chocolate truffles.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 547 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Black Swan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780552776998

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So I was delighted to have the opportunity to read Peaches for Monsier Le Curé, whch turns out to be a true sequel. At the start of this book, Vianne receives an unexpected letter summoning her back to Lansquenet, and decides that she might as well make a visit with her teenage daughter Anouk and her six-year-old Rosette. They stay in an empty house which belonged to an old friend, and gradually find themselves deeply involved in the lives of people in the town.

Things have moved on in the eight years since Vianne left. There’s now quite a community of Muslims, who seem to be involved in a feud with the French nationals, and who also have disagreements amongst themselves. A young and handsome man, who moved in and married one of the girls, is trying to insist that they should all wear the traditional veils... yet he seems very progressive in other ways. And then there’s the woman in black, Ines, who was running a school for Muslim girls until it was burned down.

Perhaps the most interesting change is that the rather unpleasant priest, Father Reynaud, has mellowed somewhat as he has grown older. Still rather standoffish, he is surprisingly pleased to see Vianne - and she learns that he is somewhat in disgrace, suspected of arson. He has never been popular, and local gossip has convinced the population of the town that he is guilty.

While the story is mainly written from Vianne’s perspective, there are some sections written from the point of view of Father Reynaud. Both are in the first person, and this confused me slightly at first, until I realised that Vianne’s sections are headed by a crescent moon, and Reynaud’s by a little cross. It works well, and gives good insight into their minds, along with the growing realisation that they are not so different after all.

The book is full of mysteries and questions - if not Reynaud, who burned down the school? Who is the woman in black? Why are so many young girls adopting rigid veiling? Why did Vianne’s close friend Josephine not let her know that she has a son... and who is his father?

Before these questions are answered there’s some serious tension as Reynaud vanishes... since we see his perspective as well as Vianne’s, we know exactly where he is, but have no idea if he will survive. I’m not one for thrillers and suspense, but this was well-handled, without being too tense, although for several chapters I could barely put the book down.

As with Chocolat, there’s a mystical element running through - Vianne can see people’s colours, get a sense of what they’re thinking, and has an almost magic way of making chocolate. She consults tarot cards too, something I am uncomfortable about in general, but she does it in such a prosaic way that it hardly matters. Whereas some of Joanne Harris’s books have been really too dark for my taste, this one felt much lighter.

It’s quite a long book, well over 500 pages and took me a while to get into, but the writing is excellent and overall I liked it very much. I would certainly recommend reading this as a sequel to Chocolat; although it stands alone, there are many references to prior events, and Vianne’s relationship with Reynaud would be much harder to understand without having read the first book. However, I don’t think its at all necessary to have read The Lollipop Shoes.


Many thanks to the publishers for sending this to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy this, then in addition to other books by Joanne Harris, I would particularly recommend Nutmeg by Maria Goodin or Night Music by Jojo Moyes

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