Book Review: Peaches for Monsieur le Curé

Posted: June 5, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books and their issues

I have just finished reading “Peaches for Monsieur le Curé” by Joanne Harris. I really like her books, and having enjoyed reading “Chocolat” (and watching the film version too) and the sequel “The Lollipop Shoes” (which wasn’t too bad for a sequel), i was looking forward to reading the next installment in the series and finding out what happened next to Vianne and her family.

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé - Joanne Harris

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé – Joanne Harris (via Amazon)

This book sees Vianne receiving a letter from beyond the grave from an old friend, and she decides to make a trip back to the small, pretty village of Lansquenet, eight years after she first visited and opened her magical chocolate shop. She takes her daughters, Anouk and Rosette with her, and they find that while some things never change in the village, there are some things which have changed. The longer she stays the more she feels she has to find out what is happening.

The river-rats (or gypsies) have left village since Roux went to join Vianne in Paris, but their place has been filled by a new settlement of Moroccan Muslim families. It seems that at first the villagers got on well with the newcomers, but then the arrival of one single woman and her daughter has changed everything and caused a division between the two communities and split the opinions of those within both, much like when Vianne and her daughter Anouk first arrived eight years previously.

Vianne’s old enemy, Francis Reynaud, Monsieur le Curé, seems to have changed and is struggling to cope with changes around him, and she feels a need to help the man. He has become a victim of prejudice after a fire in what used to be Vianne’s chocolate shop which has more recently been the home and school of the Woman in Black and her daughter. The Muslim woman is the object of much gossip in the village, disliked by many for her unpleasantness, but Vianne is sure something is not right, especially when she herself is rejected by the woman (after all, Vianne manages to make friends with everyone, eventually!). Vianne makes a new friend in Reynaud as she tries to understand why he is being targeted by the majority of the community as being racist, and also of being too traditional and old-fashioned, so he is being forced out of his church by a younger, more modern outsider.

Vianne’s relationships with old acquaintances have changed, as is inevitable when you leave somewhere for eight years, but she still manages to find new friendships and renew old ones and so do her daughters. She starts questioning her feelings about Lansquenet, wondering why the village draws her in, when so many other places were easily left behind.

There is a feeling of sensitivity in this book, as it deals with the important issues of intolerance and prejudice when it comes to gender, race and religion. Not only do we meet again with the old characters from the first “Chocolat” book, but we meet a whole new group of characters with the Muslim newcomers, which adds a nice mix of life into the book. It also focuses on young people and children, who become an important focus in the story, as does the role of women in general, and the prejudices against women and their roles within society and family.

I give it a 8/10 because it is great to find out what has happened to Vianne and her family, and interesting to read about such a mix of characters. The plot is suitably intriguing, with the variety of issues covered, and has enough of a magical element to keep it fresh and original. i highly recommend this book if you enjoyed the first two books in the series, and Joanne Harris’ other books!

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