Book Review: The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris.

The Strawberry Thief is the fourth book in the Chocolat series, telling the stories of the lives of Vianne Rocher and the inhabitants of the French village Lansquenet-sous-Tannes.

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It opens with the wind. I have loved this idea of the strength and power of the wind in all the Chocolat books, and this was no different. Everything significant in Vianne’s life is signalled by the wind. In her earlier days it called to her and encouraged her to leave, in this book, it brings great changes for her and for the village.

Like all Joanne’s books, The Strawberry Thief is gorgeously written with an intricate plot. It focuses largely on Rosette, Vianne’s youngest child, a slightly wild child, who often seems different and unusual to others. She has a strong affinity with the wind and nature. Rosette is a wonderful character. She is underestimated by everyone around her. She has a rich inner world and a unique perspective on the world around her, and having the story told largely from her point of view made for a really intriguing and compelling read. Narcisse, the florist, adored her and when he dies, he leaves her his woodland in his will. Stranger still, he entrusts his will and a lengthy letter about his life and his past to Father Francis, a man Narcisse always hated when he was alive.

The letter slowly reveals Narcisse’s story and the mystery of his decision, one which his family are incredibly cross about. His daughter, Michelle, is intensely unlikable in this book; she has no redeeming features, but she was a character I loved to hate whilst reading. Whilst this mystery unravels, a newcomer arrives in town, taking over the florist shop: Morgane Dubois. Morgane reminded me a lot of Zozie from The Lollipop Shoes. I could not get enough of her. It is some time before we discover what her shop is, and I won’t spoil that for you, but I loved the concept, and if it was a really shop I would visit it in a heartbeat. Morgane’s shop calls to the villagers like Vianne’s chocolate shop did; it is new and intoxicating. Even those you would expect to react strongly against it are tempted by what they find inside

Vianne reacts very strongly to Morgane. She is feeling vulnerable anyway, her eldest daughter is away from home, her youngest is growing fast and she feels the prospective pain of losing both her children to the call of the wind( I really felt for her in this book). But Morgane also reminds her of her former self, and she sees her as an enemy, and as the very opposite of herself:

“One of us wants to ride the wind; the other wants to silence it. One of us wants to be a deep rooted oak; one of us wants to be dandelion seeds.”

The Strawberry Thief is probably the darkest of the Chocolat books so far, and I loved this. I thought the darker side of Vianne’s magic was brilliant, the scrying with chocolate, the spells, and her return to the tarot. I could not get enough of this, and I very much hope this is not the last we see of Vianne.

If you liked the other books in this series, you will love this one. If you have not read the Chocolat books, then I implore you to do so. Immediately.

 

 

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