On the tail of a carnival, Vianne Roche and her daughter Anouk (and of course Anouk’s imaginary rabbit friend, Pantoufle) move to a sleepy little French town called Lansquenet-Sous-Tannes. Blowing in with the wind, Vianne and Anouk, with a pinch of witchcraft and huge hearts, open up a Chocolate shop right across the square from the church. Her shop is bright red and gold making it look like a fancily wrapped chocolate. Her window is filled with truffles, pralines, candied fruits, hazelnut clusters, and candied rose petals; all there to tempt townspeople, much to the dismay of Francis Reynaud, the local priest.
Vianne, being the light in this sleepy town, uses her witchcraft to see a person, truly see a person, and then help them by giving them a little bit of happiness through her chocolates. While Reynaud, is considered the darkness in this novel-not so much because he is evil, but because his methods contradict happiness. His goal is to rid the little town of any and all impure-believers, his evil is his assumptions of Vianne, Anouk and the gypsies that later arrive.
However, no matter how hard Reynaud tries to rid himself of Vianne, she preservers, making each person’s lives a little better: Josephine who finds the strength in Vianne to be just what she needed to finally leave her extremely abusive husband, Gaillume who sees Vianne’s compassion to be the model for him to let his sick dog, Charley, move on, and so many others who see Vianne as not an evil force, but a friend. Most importantly a friend to listen, encourage and aid them.
In a town where Reynaud rules the flock, Vianne quickly befriends Amande, an elder who also dabbles in witchcraft similar to Vianne’s. The two become the first townspeople to welcome the traveling gypsies when they arrive by river and are rejected by the extremists of the town. And together they combat Reynaud, especially when he decides to enforce strict Lenten vows upon his entire congregation, thus treating Vianne with suspicion and disdain. Yet, Vianne is unfazed and with the help of her new-found friends she prepares to open a chocolate festival on Easter day. Reynaud sees it as a disgrace, a ruin of the faith, and eventually preaches against Vianne from his pulpit. Thus the pageant unfolds and the story becomes alive.
Chocolat is written mostly from Vianne’s point of view, but some chapters are told from Reynaud’s point of view as he speaks to “mon père” about the fear he experiences and the evil he believes has descended on his town.
I found Chocolat to be a delightful tale that is more than just a story. It tells of lust, greed, love, death, morals, how to treat people and so much more! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind literature written in a more “oldie” style. I really loved the little French songs that the book uses, it made the book seem more … alive.
This book was made into a movie a while back but I found both the book and the movie to be amazing! Some people seem to really like this book (like me) while others found that they couldn’t connect to the characters at all. I never had that problem; my only problem was that in reading this book you have no choice but to have intense chocolate cravings the entire time you read!
I give Chocolat 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Have you read the book or seen the movie Chocolat? What did you think? What did you think of Vianne and little, spirited Anouk?