It’s the story about Vianne Rocher who arrives in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, a place that is’ no more than a blip on the fast road between Toulouse and Bordeaux’ on Shrove Tuesday. She takes over the old bakery and transforms it into La Celeste Praline Chocolaterie Artisanale €“ in other words the most enticing, the most delicious and sensuous Chocolaterie, selling not only all sorts and types of chocolate treats but delicious chocolate drinks. Together with Anouk her daughter and Anouk’s imaginary friend Pantoufle the rabbit, she also transforms everyone’s life along the way.
It’s not just a story about a chocolaterie – it’s about fear of the outsider, prejudice against ‘these people’ €“ immigrants, vagrants, and gypsies; bigotry; fear of death, old age and illness; and fear that the Church will lose its purity and that the community will be corrupted by liberal and heretic beliefs. It’s also about how so many lives intersect and interact and above all about the importance of love and understanding in everyone’s life.
So, I had high expectations about the next two books about Vianne Rocher – The Lollipop Shoes (in the US this is published as The Girl With No Shadow) and Peaches for Monsieur Le CurÃ© (in the US – Peaches for Father Francis). Maybe my expectations were too high because I was disappointed – neither book is as good, or as enchanting as Chocolat.
The Lollipop Shoes continues Vianne’s story four years later in Paris with Anouk and a second daughter Rosette. Blown there by the wind, Vianne now goes by the name of Yanne Charbonneau and Anouk, now eleven years old, is known as Annie. Rosette who is nearly four years old has an imaginary friend, a monkey called Bam. Yanne is now trying to live a ‘normal’ life, without using magic, trying to fit in with the people around them. However, her efforts are disrupted by the arrival of Zozie de l’Alba, the young lady with the shiny red shoes – the ‘lollipop’ shoes, Annie calls them. Zozie has no scruples and doesn’t hesitate to practise her own kind of magic, bewitching Annie with her spells and the power of her mind. Zozie’s magic though, is dark magic, evil and dangerous. She’s a stealer of lives and plans to take Vianne’s identity and make Annie her own.
As in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, Yanne is living above a chocolaterie. This one in Montmarre is owned by Thierry le Tresset, ‘fifty-one; divorced, one son, a churchgoer, a man of rock’. He wants to marry Yanne, but she isn’t sure. Annie is having problems at school, fitting in with the other children and Rosette is a child living very much in her own world, she hardly speaks and communicates by signs. Is Bam just an imaginary friend or is there more to him?
This is really a story about good versus evil and where Chocolat was about the power of love, The Lollipop Shoes is about the strength and destructive power of evil. But there is something missing, there is no sparkle; it’s flat. The story is narrated by Annie, Zozie and Yanne and sometimes I found it difficult to decide which character was the narrator, and had to check the little symbol at the beginning of each chapter. Maybe it’s just me, because other people have really enjoyed this book – there are lots of 4 and 5 stars on both Goodreads and Amazon.