The lollipop shoes by Joanne Harris

Book :
The Lollipop Shoes (Published as The girl with no shadow in the US)
Author: Joanne Harris

ISBN: 978-0-385-60948-7
Publisher : Transworld
Pages: 459

My rating : 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads
Since she was a little girl, the wind has dictated every move Vianne Rocher has made, buffeting her from place to place, from the small French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes to the crowded streets of Paris. Cloaked in a new identity, that of widow Yanne Charbonneau, she opens a chocolaterie on a small Montmartre street, determined to still the wind at last and keep her daughters, Anouk and the baby, Rosette, safe. Her new home above the chocolate shop offers calm and quiet: no red sachets hang by the door; no sparks of magic fill the air; no Indian skirts with bells hang in her closet. Conformity brings with it anonymity and peace. There is even Thierry, the stolid businessman who wants to take care of Yanne and the children. On the cusp of adolescence, an increasingly rebellious and restless Anouk does not understand. But soon the weather turns . . . and into their lives blows the charming and enigmatic Zozie de l’Alba. And everything begins to change.

My Thoughts

I started this book with a lot of expectations and i am happy to report that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Joanne Harris’s Lollipop shoes is like dark,creamy chocolate with a hint of spice-totally heady and difficult to resist. Narrated from three POVs(Yanne, Anouk and Zozie), the narrative flows seamlessly. I loved how Joanne let a huge chunk of the narrative be told from Zozie’s perspective- I don’t really think i have read too many novels that have been narrated from the Villain’s point of view.Also,even the minor characters seemed etched out and the writing exceptionally vivid.Despite being a sequel to Chocolat, this one reads like a stand-alone book.I don’t think not reading the first book before tackling his one matters much.

The spells,totems,fables and stories about faeries and witches that Zozie and Yanne mention make the book more exotic and fascinating.It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of magic realism-Joanne’s book is a fine specimen of that genre.The writing is measured,yet intimate and warm,just like the characters in the book. There is something dangerously appealing about a slinky,chameleon-like villain and I loved Zozie’s character the most(even more than Anouk and Yanne.). The bullying and name-calling that goes on in schools also forms a huge part of the story -atleast when the narration is done from the perspective of the eleven year-old Anouk.

Joanne’s writing is breathtaking and flows beautifully.This has to be one of the best books I have read in a long, long time and I don’t think I can rave enough about it. People who are fascinated with the art of chocolate-making will love the details that Joanne shares with us and the book is about good food as much as it is about anything else.

Sample some of her writing ..

“That red-orange flare as the fire spread ,leaping and tumbling and sommersaulting like an evil acrobat from a rail of scarves to a trapeze of dreamcatchers and finally to a stack of books.”

“The problem is me.I just dont match.I’m the wrong shape,somehow the wrong colour.I like teh wrong books.I watch the wrong films in secret.I’m different whether they like it or not and I sont see why i should pretend otherwise.”

Overall,an awesome book I’ll recommend to lovers of good fiction.A full 5 on 5 from me.I am going to hunt down and read every single book written by this incredibly talented lady.

The french connection

To me a book is a window into possibilities, people and customs that exist elsewhere –something that I would never have had an opportunity to knowing otherwise. So, when Rosy Thornton mailed me about reviewing her book, The Tapestry of Love, I was thrilled. I had never read a book based in the French countryside before.I fell in love with the book right from the minute I opened the package and set my eyes on the cover of the book: An old door painted white with splotches of greenery around it.

The book starts languorously with Rosy describing the Transhumance, a bi-yearly ritual common to the mountain regions of France where sheep are herded up and down the slopes of the mountains depending on the time of the year.During the autumn transhumance sheep are herded from the grasslands in the mountains down the slopes to the valleys and during the spring transhumance the process is reversed. Catherine is a divorcee who moves to a hamlet in the Ce’vennes Mountains from London.She is an empty Nester with her children, Lexie and Tom grown up and busy with their own lives . She decides to start her own business as a seamstress in the idyllic rural environment.

At the Ce’vennes, Catherine has to contend with loneliness, stiff neighbors and horrible weather. We are introduced to the Bouschets, Madame Volipere, the Merriels and Patrick Castagnol. Her neighbors are gracious and invite Catherine over for tea and meals , but their requests are formal. Catherine strikes up an easy friendship with Patrick as their conversations cover subjects as varied as bee-keeping, boars ,lepers and saints. As paragraph upon paragraph rolled by describing Catherine’s life, I could feel her loneliness myself. But the narrative is not depressing at any point.I loved Catherine’s character-strong and warm.Despite her divorce, she is not bitter about her husband seeing another woman .

Catherine embraces her new life selling her cushion covers and upholstering furniture to the locals . Everything rolls by smoothly until her sister, Bryonne decides to visit her. Now, Bryonne is everything Catherine is not- perky and leads an extremely successful life as a partner in a London law firm.During Bryonne’s visit Catherine realizes that both of them are falling for the same man. But the man has secrets that he holds close to his heart himself. The rest of the story is about how Catherine befriends the neighbors, becomes an integral part of the neighborhood, how she strives to get her enterprise registered and makes sense of the feelings she has towards Patrick.

The strong points of the book are the depth with which each character is etched out,Rosy’s lovely words and the information on life in the mountains. I particularly loved Lexie,the journalist daughter who tires of her writing jobs in a jiffy and constantly seeks something else to excite her. Somehow, the neighbors didn’t make much of an impression on me and I wonder if it was done on purpose.Rosy’s love for good food and the mountainside shows through the pages of the book.

My only issue with the book was the length-400 odd pages.Somewhere in the middle the narrative sags a bit . I would have also wanted to learn more about the finer points of making tapestries.But things soon heat up and to know more you need to grab the book and read it :-).

Let me leave you with one of the passages I particularly loved

“Catherine inhaled.It was the smell of the valley always had in snatches, the acidity of woodsmoke and behind it everywhere the darker, mellower scent of what had been there before the settlement of man.Earth and water and rock , and spent leaves returning to the earth.”

Overall, a simple love story set in a beautiful pastoral background. I’ll give it a 3.5 /5. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good love story and am looking forward to reading more of her work.

Thanks Rosy for sending me this book to review.

A bit about the author: Rosy Thornton teaches at Cambridge University and lives with her daughters and partner in a village near the University. She also has three more books – More than Love Letters, Hearts and Minds and Crossed Wires to her credit.

For more info hop over to Rosy’s website here.You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see a lot of traditional Ce’vennes recipes there.