Written by Joanne Harris Published Year 1999
Vianne Rocher and her 6-year-old daughter, Anouk, arrive in the small village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes--"a blip on the fast road between Toulouse and Bourdeaux"--in February, during the carnival. Three days later, Vianne opens a luxuriant chocolate shop crammed with the most tempting of confections and offering a mouth-watering variety of hot chocolate drinks. It's Lent, the shop is opposite the church and open on Sundays and Francis Reynaud, the austere parish priest is livid.
When my daughter was born nine months later I called her after both of us. It seemed appropriate. Her father never knew her - nor am I sure which one he was in the wilting daisy-chain of my brief encounters. It doesn't matter. I could have peeled an apple at midnight and thrown the rind over my shoulder to know his initial, but I never cared enough to do it. Too much ballast slows us down.
And yet . . . Since I left New York, haven't the winds blown less hard, less often? Hasn't there been a kind of wrench every time we leave a place, a kind of regret? I think there has. Twenty-five years, and at last the spring has begun to grow tired, just as my mother grew tired in the final years. I find myself looking at the sun and wondering what it would be like to see it rise above the same horizon for five - maybe ten, maybe twenty - years: The thought fills me with a strange dizziness, a feeling of fear and longing. And Anouk, my little stranger? I see the brave adventure we lived for so long in a different light now that I am the mother. I see myself as I was, the brown girl with the long uncombed hair, wearing cast-off charity-shop clothing, learning maths the hard way, geography the hard way. How much bread for two francs? How far will a fifty-mark rail ticket take us? - and I do not want it for her. Perhaps this is why we have stayed in France for the last five years. For the first time in my life, I have a bank account. I have a trade.
My mother would have despised all this. And yet perhaps she would have envied me too. Forget yourself if you can, she would have told me. Forget who you are. For as long as you am bear it. But one day, my girl, one day it will catch you. I know.
I'm distracted with the thoughts of chocolates while reading this book, being a chocolate lover myself. Kind of reminds me of the book Like Water for Chocolates; both has a surreal feel into them though it wasn't as good as I expected it to be.