When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she allows the wind to blow her back to the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Lansquenet is different now: women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the church: a minaret.
Nor is it only the incomers from North Africa that have brought change. Father Reynaud, Vianne’s erstwhile adversary, is disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him now?
First published: 2012
I only found out about the existence of Peaches for Monsieur le Curé a few months ago and I got really excited. This novel is the third one in the series about Vianne Rocher, the first one being the well-known Chocolat (which was turned into a great film as well) and the second one being The Lollipop Shoes. I adored both novels, and couldn’t wait to read this one.
When I started reading I was delighted to find the style and atmosphere of Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé to be just as mouthwatering and comforting as those of the previous two novels. Joanne Harris has this way of describing everything in a sort of detail that is melodious, in a way, and makes you feel as if you’re standing right next to Vianne in her kitchen. It gives me a sense of comfort no other novel has given me before in this way.
There’s something very comforting about the ritual of jam-making. It speaks of cellars filled with preserves; of neat rows of jars on pantry shelves. It speaks of winter mornings and bowls of chocolat au lait, with thick slices of good fresh bread and last year’s peach jam, like a promise of sunshine at the darkest point of the year.
What I loved about this novel as well is the way it approaches the issue of xenophobia. The entire Chocolat-series has had this as an interwoven theme, but Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé takes it to a new level by engaging with a subject that has been quite relevant in our society for the last couple of decades. It’s about the differences between islam and christianity and the fear and contempt that sometimes come with it. I find Harris to be quite brave for writing about this topic in the way she does; she doesn’t back away from letting some of her characters (both moslim and christian ones) voice blatant prejudices. That is what makes this story real.
There’s only one thing that slightly bothered me about the book. At some point during the story Vianne started to annoy me a little; she seemed too intent upon being the one to fix everything in Lansquenet, and too sure of the fact that everybody would love her and open up to her just because she was Vianne Rocher and made the best chocolates you’ve ever tasted.
This was only a minor irritation, though, for which the ending definitely made up. That’s the funny thing about these novels: Harris writes these lovely stories that are almost magical, and calming and comforting, and then she hits you with a climax that keeps you on the edge of your seat and is almost thriller-like.
I loved Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé and am now thinking of ordering Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes as well because I have the urge to reread them. Plus, I want to be able to proudly display the entire series in my bookcase.