Book Review of "Chocolat" by Joanne Harris

A Unique Story Well-written

Introduction

This book review is meant to be the companion to my movie review about Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche, Judy Dench, Lena Olin, and Johnny Depp. My discussion will focus on the differences between the novel and the movie with regard to the plot and character development. There are very few differences between the two, and the variances from the book that the movie presented did not detract from my enjoyment of either. Instead, they enriched my appreciation of both.

The themes and climax of both the book and movie were the same - the town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes enjoys a rebirth on Easter Sunday as a result of the graceful presence of the lovely Vianne Rocher and her chocolaterie, La Celeste Praline (book). In the movie the name of her shop is Chocolaterie Maya.

Literary Landscape

The novel Chocolat, by Joanne Harris is very well-written. The detailed description of the setting and characters invite the reader to become part of the story as it unfolds. The entire story takes place within a six-week period, that of the Catholic season of Lent. The unfolding of events in the book is slow and delicious.

Joanne Harris is an award-winning novelist with cultural ties to both France and England. She writes with authority about her subject because Vianne reflects the qualities she remembers and the stories she has been told about her great-grandmother. It will be my pleasure to find and read copies of her other novels, as well.

Character Development

The characters in the book are reflected very accurately in the movie Chocolat. They are developed more deeply in the book, and having knowledge of their thoughts is important to appreciating their significance to the story.

Vianne Rocher

The novel moves the reader beyond the dialogue to the thoughts of the heroine, Vianne Rocher. Her descriptions of the other characters and how they relate to her are very colorful, yet very human. Her care for and tolerance of the basic humanity of the townspeople are evident in how she sees them.

Try it in French ~

Chocolat (French Edition)
Chocolat (French Edition)

One way to learn a language is by immersion, so why not immerse yourself in French while immersing yourself in chocolate?

 

Pere Reynaud

The other character whose thoughts are brought to light in the novel are those of Pere Reynaud, the Catholic Priest, and Pastor (Cure) of St. Jerome's Parish in the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. He is the villain of the story, for his harsh preaching and grasping at false piety make him intolerant. He seeks to put La Celeste Praline out of business by Easter, and makes himself Vianne's enemy.

In the movie, Pere Reynaud is portrayed as the Compt de Reynaud, the Mayor of the town, and the priest is a separate character. At the end of the book, his character disappears from town. At the end of the movie, the priest preaches redemption and the Mayor is softened. Though I prefer the ending to this character's story as played out in the movie, his disappearance from the town at the end of the book had the same end result as the Mayor's epiphany - the entire town relaxed and warmed up to one another as a result of the presence of La Celest Praline , Vianne Rocher's chocolaterie. The climax of the story in both the book and the movie was the 70th birthday party in honor of Armande.

Josephine Muscat

In the movie, Lena Olin's character is named Pauline. The corresponding character in the book is named Josephine. Her husband, Paul Marie Muscat, is repugnant in both the book and the movie, in the eyes of everyone in the town.

Roux

Roux, the gypsy leader, is a darker character in the book than in the movie, but he remains on the side of light and love. It is Josephine who has the long-lasting romance with Roux in the book. But he does make love to Vianne, and this results in the promise of new life. It is one of the reasons she stays in the town instead of moving on. This detail can only be known by reading the book.

Bake with chocolate ~

The Golden Book of Chocolate: Over 300 Great Recipes
The Golden Book of Chocolate: Over 300 Great Recipes

This recipe book can occupy an aspiring pastry chef for a year. I am about to start my adventure now.

 

Narrative Point of View

The point of view switches between Vianne's and Reynaud's throughout the book. Their thought patterns are developed, and the conflict between how they view the world and the people of the town becomes poignant and electric.

Vianne is consistent and brings warmth and love to the town through the love she pours into making the chocolates, and the care she takes in finding the perfect candy for everyone who walks into her shop. The priest is furtive and judgmental, and enacts his own demise because of how tightly wrapped in his own mire he has become. He cannot stay to face the members of St. Jerome's parish after Vianne finds him on Easter morning in her surprise chocolate display. He does not stay celebrate mass on Easter Sunday. Yet, at 6am on Easter morning, the full carillion of Easter bells ring out a new era of redemptive love for the town, and Vianne's Easter Festival is successful.

Assorted chocolate truffles make lovely gifts for any occasion ~

What is your chocolate threshold?

Have you reached your threshold for chocolate yet?

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© 2011 Karen Szklany Gault

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Comments 10 comments

Charlotte B Plum profile image

Charlotte B Plum 5 years ago

Enjoyed reading this, now I feel like reading the book!


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 5 years ago from New England Author

Awesome, Charlotte. Bon apetit. So glad that my hub has served its purpose. :0)


Esmeowl12 profile image

Esmeowl12 5 years ago from Sevierville, TN

Thanks for the review. I've added the book to my reading list. I remember seeing promos for the movie. Voted up and useful.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 5 years ago from New England Author

Glad you enjoyed my review, Esmeowl12. Thank you for stopping by and leaving words of encouragement. Enjoy the book with lots of chocolates! :0)


thesailor profile image

thesailor 5 years ago from Seven Seas

Great review! I bought a paperback issue of the book, when I was in college (early 90s) and watched the movie, too.

From then on, my chocolate cravings never stop!


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 5 years ago from New England Author

So true. Tried some cocoa with ground chili pepper in it, in addition to the usual cinnamon I add, and wow - will need to pare down on the quantity. The cocoa bit me back...but it was good. :0)


Jenna Kunc profile image

Jenna Kunc 4 years ago from Colorado

I saw the movie several times before reading the book, and I have to say that both made me crave chocolate so much! Nicely written review.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 4 years ago from New England Author

Thank you, Jenna.

Yes...I make sure to have chocolate in our home, always...especially since seeing the movie and reading the book! :0)


Sally Balboa profile image

Sally Balboa 2 years ago from The Glove

I've had this book on my too be read list for a while now, can't wait to read it.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 2 years ago from New England Author

Hi Sally ~ that book would make great beach chair reading....or anywhere else you'd like to curl up to read and sip tea/lemonade in the summer. Thanks for stopping by to read my review. Enjoy!

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    Seafarer Mama profile image

    Karen Szklany Gault (Seafarer Mama)265 Followers
    127 Articles

    Seafarer Mama/Karen is a journalist who loves to write reviews of places to visit, books for all ages, music albums, movies and more.



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