CHOCOLAT
Joanne Harris


This book has gotten a lot of hoopla lately, but a lot is missed in the promotional onslaught. The back co ver and other citations quote the first sentence, "We came on the wind of the carnival." But I haven't seen mention of the fact that the book spans the time from the day before Ash Wednesday (i.e., Carnival), to the day after Easter. Each chapter is one day in Lent, each chapter given a day and a date, but with the year left vague, and curing that course we have sin, suffering, death, and hilarious redemption. A very effective device.

Having said that, I will also say that, although the book clearly had appeal, I almost didn't buy it because I found the first paragraph awkward. Grammatical and syntactical awkwardnesses continued to be irritating throughout the book, even leading occasionally to sentences where multiple interpretations of meaning were possible. And attempts to portray French regional dialect in English were often clumsy and annoying, as well.

Part way through my reading I started hearing more and more about the just-released movie version. I had surely expected Johnny Depp would play Reynaud, the tortured priest, full of hate, hiding a hideous memory (some of the chapters are in his voice, his ramblings to an old and infirm priest, and these chapters are set in a slightly darker typeface, another nice touch), and was very surprised to find he is cast as Roux, the gypsy. The press and ads for the movie may be misleading, but it seems Roux may have a much bigger role in the movie than he does in the book. I hope not, because I can't imagine giving Roux a bigger influence without having to diminish the dark and sinister role of Reynaud. And I've heard there's a mayor in the movie, who I don't remember from reading at all, yet I've heard no mention of Anouk, the daughter, nor of the vary important part played by Tarot cards. Well, we'll seeŠ. But one thing for sure, any pastry shop near the theatre should do a booming business after the show! The chocolates themselves, in all their varieties -- pastries, confections, drinks with and without liqueurs -- are describe din such loving sensuous detail, it was impossible not to long for the taste while reading. So much for Lenten resolutionsŠ.

[Having seen the movie now, I will say, I was sorry the director apparently missed much of the Lent/Good Friday meaning in the book and sorry he completely changed the character of the town priest. Yes, Roux has a much bigger role than in the book -- but I have to admit, I rather enjoyed Johnny Depp, rich and sensuous as the deepest of dark chocolate! Why did they have to change the end, though? Please?!]