14 Jan 2022

PEACHES FOR MONSIEUR LE CURE & THE STRAWBERRY THIEF {CHOCOLAT 3 & 4}

Having previously enjoyed Chocolat by Joanne Harris {unfortunately I read this pre Pen and Paper and therefore there is no review} and, the second book in the series, The Lollipop shoes {released in the US as The Girl with No Shadow}, my thoughts on which you can find here , today its my pleasure to be sharing my thoughts on books three and four in the author's Chocolat/Vianne Rocher series ... 

PEACHES FOR MONSIEUR LE CURE {released in the US As Peaches For Father  Francis}

It isn't often you receive a letter from the dead.

When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to follow the wind that blows her back to Lansquenet, the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Vianne is completely unprepared for what she finds there. Women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and there, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the square little tower of the church of Saint-Jerome like a piece on a chessboard - slender, bone-white and crowned with a silver crescent moon - a minaret.

Nor is it only the incomers from North Africa that have brought big changes to the community. Father Reynaud, Vianne's erstwhile adversary, is now disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him? ... BACK COVER BLURB

Someone once told me that, in France alone, a quarter of a million letters are delivered every year to the dead. ... FIRST SENTENCE {New Moon, Chapter One}

I have never belonged to a tribe. It gives me a different perspective. Perhaps if I did, I too would feel ill at ease in Les Marauds. But I have always been different. Perhaps that's why I find it easier to cross the narrow boundaries between one tribe and the next. To belong so often means to exclude; to think in terms of us and them - two little words that, juxtaposed, so often lead to conflict. ... MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 164/65}

MY THOUGHTS ... Over long, at times a bit contrived and, despite the wonderful exploration of differing communities, of prejudice and intolerance, I couldn't help but feel that the author's portrayal of Islam was in danger of seeming to be sentimentally indulgent when it came to its customs. And as for the ending ...  Hmm!  {trying desperately and yet I fear failing miserably when it comes to my not giving too much away} much as I'm for 'happy ever afters' {or at least 'happyish ever afters'} there are times when, well this just doesn't do it for me.

Don't get me wrong though, rated *** {I liked it}, by all means there are things to recommend Peaches for Monsieur le Curé.  

Cleverly written ✓ The parallels between the new arrivals arriving at Ramadan just as Vianne herself blew into Lansquenet at the beginning of Lent, that likewise we have the ways of the old Imam challenged by those of his less orthodox son just as we have the 'old fashioned' Father Reynaud challenged by a younger priest with his new fangled ideas, interesting.

Deliciously descriptive ✓ The typical French fare, the Middle eastern cuisine, the chocolate {even if it doesn't have such a major part to play in this, the third instalment, how could we forget the chocolate?}

Essentially, as always it was a pleasure to revisit Lansquenet, to meet friends old ... and new.

THE STRAWBERRY THIEF 

Faith. Secret. Magic.

What will the wind blow in today?

Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her 'special' child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.

But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray.

And when a mysterious new shop with a strange appeal of its own opens, it heralds a change: a a confrontation, a turbulence - even perhaps, a murder ... ... BACK COVER BLURB

There's always a moment before a storm when the wind seems to change its mind. ... FIRST SENTENCE {Wind, Chapter One - Friday, March 10}

The woman looked at the packet, tied with a violet ribbon and a little paper flower. 'Violet creams? My favourites.'

'You're lying,' I thought. The charm, that comes from her like the scent of flowers picked at midnight, was darkly, sweetly, provocative. ... MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 132}

MY THOUGHTS ... 😊Now this is more like it.

Up there as one of my favourite reads of 2021, The Strawberry Thief is almost, not quite, but almost as good as Chocolat ... but my how things have changed in this, the fourth, and what is believed to be the last book in the series. 

Having lost Anouk, her elder daughter, her summer child, to Paris and the man that she loves, Vianne is comforted by the fact she still has/will always have Rosette, her non-verbal youngest daughter, her snow child. However, the winds are once again changing and Vianne has a terrible sense of foreboding when into Lansquenet blows Morgane who has a magic seemingly every bit as powerful as Vianne's own ... that of ink.

As with the previous books, full of a beguiling magic that I just adore; the author focusing on human frailties, wants and desires, interweaving dark fairytales.

The Strawberry Thief is a story of a mother frightened of losing everything, the man she loves, the last of her two daughters, of a woman, who having gained the acceptance of the folks of this little French village, is suspicious of the power of the newcomer who seems to have enchanted them all. More than this though - Just why did the deceased Narcisse bequeath Rosette the plot in forest where the wild strawberries grow? Just what is the secret contained in the papers he entrusted to Father Reynaud, the village priest? Just why is everyone, even the most unlikeliest of people, suddenly wanting a tattoo? - its also something of a mystery story.

A book/books that could arguably be read as standalone novels but why, just why would you want to when Vianne, Annouk, Father Reynaud and all of Lansquenet are waiting for you, their stories enfolding book by book.

I could wax lyrical about The Strawberry Thief and indeed Chocolat, the Lollipop Shoes and Peaches for Monsieur le Curé for a long time yet but, likewise, why, just why would I want to when you could be reading them/buying them/borrowing them from the library?


NB Both of these books were read 2021. Having found myself way behind it is only now I am sharing my thoughts on them.

4 comments:

Kelly said...

I read (and enjoyed) Chocolat years ago, but never any others in the series. Her stuff can be hit or miss with me and I think I still have one book (not from this series) sitting on my shelf. I'm glad the final one worked for you. Nice to go out on a positive note.

Literary Feline said...

I did not even know this was a series. I have Chocolat on my TBR shelf, but haven't managed to read it yet. The Strawberry Thief sounds like a real winner.

nightwingsraven said...

Felicity,
I have not read any books
from the Chocolat series
yet. But I will add Chocolat
to my list and start there.
And as always, thank you for
your excellent review.
Raven

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I confess that I must be one of the few people who have never read 'Chocolat', or for that matter, any of the author's previous books, albeit for no other reason than lack of time!

I really like the sound of both your featured books, but t very much sounds as though they should be read as a series, and in sequence.

I'm going to add all four books to my 'wish list' and you never know... One Day!! :)

I love the cover art for the series too. Thanks for sharing and enjoy the rest of your weekend :)