The Book Club Reflection: Chocolate by Joanne Harris

From the land of chocolate origin to my homeland

Peruvian mountains early in the morning
Peruvian mountains early in the morning
Meeting these Peruvian women I feel in love with their enthusiasm, verve for life, kindness, integrity and sincerity
Meeting these Peruvian women I feel in love with their enthusiasm, verve for life, kindness, integrity and sincerity
Life in these mountains seems a lifetime away from us yet the products of their labour reach us nearly every day...
Life in these mountains seems a lifetime away from us yet the products of their labour reach us nearly every day...
I remember them when I sip a hot chocolate in Perth on other side of the world
I remember them when I sip a hot chocolate in Perth on other side of the world
When I asks a Peruvian living here if there is anything he misses in life, I am suprised that he struggles to find something
When I asks a Peruvian living here if there is anything he misses in life, I am suprised that he struggles to find something
And then I am not, what is there really to miss about our modern civilization?
And then I am not, what is there really to miss about our modern civilization?
Watching these two South American Condors, I was thinking about my dream of letting go, to be free...
Watching these two South American Condors, I was thinking about my dream of letting go, to be free...
Then there was only one Condor left and I realize, to be free is also means to be on your own...
Then there was only one Condor left and I realize, to be free is also means to be on your own...
My journey through Peruvian mountains began near this magical lake, I sat there for a long time thinking about my own beginings...
My journey through Peruvian mountains began near this magical lake, I sat there for a long time thinking about my own beginings...
Travelling and discovering new places has become a way of making sense of my life
Travelling and discovering new places has become a way of making sense of my life
I was thinking about my parents a lot travelling through these mountains and how their pasts had shaped my current relationships
I was thinking about my parents a lot travelling through these mountains and how their pasts had shaped my current relationships
What I learnt form my parents is that to have control in a relationship, you need to devalue the other person.
What I learnt form my parents is that to have control in a relationship, you need to devalue the other person.
Sarcasm and emotional detachment to distance yourself from what you can't control are the usual tools used in communication among couples
Sarcasm and emotional detachment to distance yourself from what you can't control are the usual tools used in communication among couples
How profoundly complicated all relationships are?
How profoundly complicated all relationships are?
I think about my children reaching their adolescence and early adulthood years
I think about my children reaching their adolescence and early adulthood years
It is an extremely vulnerable period of life. There is a period in which you are not a fully engaged adult responsible for your own life.
It is an extremely vulnerable period of life. There is a period in which you are not a fully engaged adult responsible for your own life.
The price of freedom is worse mental health..there can be a lack of structure and values.
The price of freedom is worse mental health..there can be a lack of structure and values.
The brain is actually developing until 25. The frontal lobes don't really come on stream until around then.
The brain is actually developing until 25. The frontal lobes don't really come on stream until around then.
You've got this emotional risk-taking part of the brain in full flight. My empathy is personal although my children live in wealthier environment I used to live.
You've got this emotional risk-taking part of the brain in full flight. My empathy is personal although my children live in wealthier environment I used to live.
However I am fully aware that personal identity with which each young individual struggles to some extent
However I am fully aware that personal identity with which each young individual struggles to some extent
is at the heart of mental illness. Psychiatric symptoms are a legitimate response to the soul destroying demands of an unreasonable world.
is at the heart of mental illness. Psychiatric symptoms are a legitimate response to the soul destroying demands of an unreasonable world.
People have been looking for a help in religion before.
People have been looking for a help in religion before.
I watch how Peruvian Indians are treated outside their villages...
I watch how Peruvian Indians are treated outside their villages...
I read in 'Chocolat' and I know from my own experience how Gypsies are treated in Europe...
I read in 'Chocolat' and I know from my own experience how Gypsies are treated in Europe...
WA /my adopted homeland/ has recorded the highest proportion fo racism complaints of any state in Australia
WA /my adopted homeland/ has recorded the highest proportion fo racism complaints of any state in Australia
60 percent of racism allegations were perpetrated against Aboriginal people /original inhabitants/
60 percent of racism allegations were perpetrated against Aboriginal people /original inhabitants/
Racist attitudes in communities and the need to protect people from them did not change from the time described in the 'Chocolate'.
Racist attitudes in communities and the need to protect people from them did not change from the time described in the 'Chocolate'.
We like to describe ourselves as an egalitarian and tolerant people but significant and unjustified inequalities remain everywhere.
We like to describe ourselves as an egalitarian and tolerant people but significant and unjustified inequalities remain everywhere.
" This proble is something that definitely needs to be addressed." Politicians murmur under their breath from time to time.
" This proble is something that definitely needs to be addressed." Politicians murmur under their breath from time to time.
And the rest of us just turn our heads away
And the rest of us just turn our heads away
and get on with our lives. There is nothing we can do about it.
and get on with our lives. There is nothing we can do about it.
We can close our eyes for a while and pretend for a while that this problem does not exist.
We can close our eyes for a while and pretend for a while that this problem does not exist.
But one day it will catch us. I take a piece of chocolate with me as I leave South America for my homeland.
But one day it will catch us. I take a piece of chocolate with me as I leave South America for my homeland.
I am cruising the brown river Danube on which banks I was born
I am cruising the brown river Danube on which banks I was born
The story of this river is a story of  truimph and survival throughout the rich European history
The story of this river is a story of truimph and survival throughout the rich European history
My personal story is just a drop in her muddy waters that slowly flows through the towns and cities of my childhood
My personal story is just a drop in her muddy waters that slowly flows through the towns and cities of my childhood
Travelling again on her waters gives me a deep understanding of my origin
Travelling again on her waters gives me a deep understanding of my origin
of the connectedness of people and the largeness of human character.
of the connectedness of people and the largeness of human character.
Medicine saves your life, your homeland gives you  the identity.
Medicine saves your life, your homeland gives you the identity.
In a literal sense, books open you a door to other people,
In a literal sense, books open you a door to other people,
their struggles and victories
their struggles and victories
and their indentities.
and their indentities.
Books for me are not about escaping
Books for me are not about escaping
but rather gaining a deeper understanding about our place in the world.
but rather gaining a deeper understanding about our place in the world.
 The books that I find profoundly sustaining. The 'Chocolate' is one of them.
The books that I find profoundly sustaining. The 'Chocolate' is one of them.

Reading 'Chocolate', tasting chocolate: bitter, sweet, alive


Reading 'Chocolate',

tasting chocolate,

bitter, sweet, alive.

I can see them,

the Mayan farmers

in southern Belize,

harvesting

their precious black gold,

the only mean of their survival

and then

blending rich, dark chocolate

in centuries old secret ritual

among some renmaints

of the ancient wall

in their long lost kingdom,

blending the richness

with a refreshing twist of orange

that is perfectly

balanced by the warmth

of cinnamon,

nutmeg and vanilla.



Have you been there,

Joanne Harris?

Your book tastes just like that.



Tasting chocolate,

reading 'Chocolate',

page 1 to page 39

February

Shrove Tuesday

the Carnival

maybe their final destination

in this old French little town,

for a mysterious woman..



A wanderer,

who calls herself Vianne Rocher,

and her precious daughter,

Anouk

with an invisible grey rabbit

Pantoufle

under her arm.



Vianne Rocher

meets her 'black man'

Cure of the local Parish,

Francis Reynard.

And whatever you might think,

he is not unique,

with his unaswerable voice

of authority,

a specious logic,

which keeps you frozen,

obedient and fearful.

You want to break free

from that fear,

to run in hope and despair,

to run and to find that

all the time

you were carrying him inside.

Who is your 'black man'?

Who stops you to dream?

Who force you to worry

about how things

are supposed to be or

have always been?

The Black Man

full of hate

The Black Man

you can not love.



Just remember,

start running away

from him

and you'll be on the run

forewer.

Vianne tells you fiercely:

' Stay and fight'.



On February 14th

St Valentines Day

you meet Guillaume

a retired master of the local school

sad and miserable

but full of love

for his dying dog

Charlie.

Can you apprehend

so much despair,

so much devotion?

It smells too strongly

of wasted hope.

Vianne believes that

being happy

in spite of everything

is the only important thing.



Old Armande Voizin knows...

knows the wind they blew in on,

she felt it herself,

she likes magic,

just like Vianne's Mum,

used to...

I have found out

on page 49

I wish to see the world

through Armande's eyes,

before they turned blind...

a sense of wonder,

openesss to inner feelings

her art of turning bad luck

into good,

her appreciation of those

others,

abandoned by everyone.

She understood Gypsies,

their wonderlust,

which took them all over Europe,

deported countless times,

arrested but released without charge.

People without home and without jobs,

languages and names constantly changed.

Life was a fine adventure,

but not for long,

Reynard, the black man,

preaches against them,

he plans to chase them out.



Reading Chocolate,

I thought of my own Father

in those last months.

His pallor,

the way the flesh melted from him,

revealing a delicate beauty

of stripped bone,

bleached skin.

His bright and feverish eyes

begging:

"Find me a doctor to cure me,

I don't want to die."

His furtive cries in the night.

After a while,

you just want to stop

to look after the decaying body

and feverish mind

and go on with your own life.

After a while,

it's the lack of dignity

that hurts more

than anything else.



Reading Chocolate,

I thought about my own Mother,

who has to have control

all the time.

Always correcting me,

always carrying on,

about meeting my Father

first time when I was 22 year old.

It surprised me a little to see us,

so alike,

circling each other

with the caution of friends

reunited after long years

of separation.

" Pretty face has your mother,

no strength of its own."

He sighed

looking me in eyes:

"You know mistletoe,

invasive and poison,

everything,

it touches.

It's not her fault.

It's a fact of life."



Reading Chocolate,

I thought of my homeland,

about my own life,

Since I left places

I knew

15 years ago,

haven't the winds

blown less hard,

less often?

Hasn't there been

a kind of regret?

I find myself

looking at the sun

and wondering

what it would be like

to see it rise above

the river Danube

again?



The river Danube

is mostly brown now.

I dream to float

down the stream

from Budapest,

seeing ashore

a team of Hungarian cowboys

perform thrilling horseback stunts,

my cousin is there among them.

Next day I awake in Vukovar,

Croatia,

my forebearers came from there,

to settle in Slovakia.

The following day,

I explore Belgrade

in Serbia.

A part of my family reseatled

in a nearby village

a hundred years back.

The Danube scenery is

always changing,

with forests giving away to cities,

then villages with onion-domed churches.

At the little Bulgarian town of Arbanassi

I visit an astonishing 16th century church

where I find my 80 years old uncle

dusting its 2000 frescoes and icons

and talking about good old times.

After the chasms known

as the Iron Gate of Romania,

my Danube family adventure ends

with a day in Bucharest,

I do not intend to visit the grave

of Romania's national hero,

Count Dracula.

I used to live in this city

in my childhood

with my Mother and her boyfriend,

a wellknown Romanian Soccer player,

my stepbrother lives somewhere here.

The river Danube is mostly brown now,

can you ever forget,

who you really are?



On Friday 7th of March,

on page 173

the Gypsies are leaving Les Marauds,

they have nowhere to stay

and no one to befriend.

Guillaume asks Vianne

what

she believes in.



Josephine Muscat leaves her husband,

the violent and abusive man.

" I'd like to be an adventurer,"

Josephine whispers:

" to follow the sun with nothing

but a single suitcase,

to have no idea at all

of where

I might be tomorow."



"Believe me, you get tired,"

Vianne shakes her head:

"And after a while,

everywhere

starts to look the same.

I want to stay here,

forever.

My fears are gone.

I need no longer

be afraid

of my face.

I have a home,

I have friends."


How many times

we dream,

just like Vianne or Josephine did,

to be free,

free to run,

cut loose

like an untethered balloon

on the changing winds?



How many times

the reason

and duty stops us.

Listen to Vianne's words:

"Are you ready

to give up your safety

in exchange for a little knowledge,

a glimpse of an ocean,

and what then?

The wind always brings you back

to the foot

of the same wall."



I know she is right,

wherever I go,

the banks

of brown river Danube

will always be my home.



For a second

I hesitated

with Vianne,

the story heroine,

on page 186,

Josephine's abandoned husband

and Reynard, the black man,

left covered by darkness.

There have already

been too many men

bad and good,

left behind.



Roux, the redhed Gypsy

another one,

she met along the road,

he and Josephine belong together,

" What might this do to them?"

Vianne wonders,

and yet,

Roux and Vianne have one night stand.



But then I understand,

Roux is just a man,

she cares for but not love.

" Please, what would I do without you?"

She cries out for her child.

With a sudden overhelming clarity,

she saw her child,

growing, changing,

the adolescent, the adult,

the stranger she would one day becomes,

but nothing can lessen her love for her child.

There is nothing stronger than woman's love for her child.



Reading 'Chocolate',

tasting chocolate,

bitter, sweet, alive.

can you ever forget,

who you really are?













More by this Author


Comments 14 comments

H P Roychoudhury profile image

H P Roychoudhury 6 years ago from Guwahati, India

Here is a good accomplishment.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thanks for nice comment, I have just finished it. All the best from Beata


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Chocolat as the original was entitled, remains one of my favorite stories -- I read it in the French language years ago and how I loved it. And, it is one of the few times I felt a film maker caught the heart of the story -- for once I enjoyed the film without mourning "oh they missed this and that; in fact failed to get the whole point." Not this time. The film is as delightful as the book.

But that is only part of your message, and the rest is also well spoken.

And as always -- the photographs are superb.

Lynda


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

My dear Lynda, I wish I could read the 'Chocolate' in original, it would be much more deeper and fuller experience I don't doubt that. I have read Tolsty in original and I can not read it in translation any more, something is always lost in translation. By the way, I have finally seen 'The Last Station' you wrote about so nicely in your hub. I enjoyed it enourmosly, thank you for your suggestion /it took a while to come to our cinemas/.

All the best from Beata


SEM Pro profile image

SEM Pro 6 years ago from North America

Profoundly moving Beata! Who you are includes an inherent ability to lead our emotions through a myriad of life experiences, from the depths of ingrained paradigms worth questioning, through soaring above in true liberty as the Condor. I feel as though I was the brush to help you paint your masterpiece. Proof that we can make a difference in this life. Eternal gratitude for sharing the journey with your talents my dear kindred friend


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you SEM for so uplifting comment, every one of us use different ways to express ourselves and leave a tiny mark that once we have been here...but we need each other to support, to comment and to reflect on each other marks...thank you for your support...all the best to you from beata


Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Beata! This is wonderful! I've only seen the movie (a switch because I always prefer the books) and the invisible rabbit is a kangaroo.. so now I have to read it! Thank you, and thank you for the 'happy birthday'! Hugs!!


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you Candie, very happy that you liked your Birthday present...it is great to connect with the similar minded people...it is so great to meet you here and on FB...keep in touch...all the best from Beata


TheBrainyOne profile image

TheBrainyOne 6 years ago from Utah

This "Chocolate" book appears to be very insightful, but what you've done with it is extraordinary. I love the caption stating that you "do not read to escape." That is a very short and sweet, but thought provocative statement which I appreciate.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you TheBrainyOne for your encouraging comment and thank you for popping in to see my work, hopefully you come back again:)


JulesFreeman 4 years ago

I loved your interpretation of "Chocolat" - one of my favourite books! This hub was beautifully written, and flowed so well, just like melted chocolate! It is quite a unique style of writing, but it works really well for the reader as your eyes engage with the text and you are able to move easily with the rhythm of it. I loved the photos too - this is really original and you should be very proud of it. I shall definitely be following your work Beata!


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 4 years ago from Western Australia Author

thank you, Jules, my fellow 'chocolat lover' for your kind and encouraging comment, hopefully my other hubs would live to your expectation as well:)


Shri Mc profile image

Shri Mc 4 years ago

I had not even heard of this but am absolutely in love with the Myan culture and chocolate is a fetish for me. I am Gypsy in so many ways and can't wait to meet the man that will stroll the continents with me from Belize to India to Versailles to Amsterdam. I also love your hub on Peru.


Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 4 years ago from Western Australia Author

Thank you, Shri, good luck in finding the right man who will taste chocolate with you all the way from one corner of the world to another:)

With your adventurous spirit and the zest for life it will not be hard to find him:)

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