In the airport on my way on holiday to Malaysia I stopped in the bookshop and saw that Joanne Harris had a new hardback out – The Strawberry Thief – the next book in the series that began with her 1999 bestseller Chocolat. I really enjoyed reading Chocolat when it came out and have enjoyed the other novels that have followed since (see my blog on Peaches and Chocolate). Reading The Strawberry Thief on my journey home was like having a warm and comforting bath (with a homemade hot chocolate on the side).
It picks up the story of Vianne Rocher who is back in the small French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes with her daughter Rosette, who is very bright and a talented artist, but who does not speak. Vianne is happily making Easter chocolate in her shop, when her balance is upset by a tattooist moving into the shop opposite, showing signs of using the same magic that Vianne employs to see people’s needs and to meet them.
Meanwhile, an elderly local villager, Narcisse, has died and has left a wood on his land to Rosette. His daughter is furious that she and her son Yannick are not the beneficiaries and tries to reverse the decision in Narcisse’s will, by getting hold of his written testament that Narcisse had bequeathed to the local priest. Having stolen the document, it then gets stolen from her, until many in the village, including Vianne, have read it and have found out the story of Narcisse and his troubled past.
More trouble is brewing as Rosette is busy finding her true calling and her voice, Vianne’s elder daughter Anouk is on her way home from Paris with some big news, Vianne’s lover Roux seems to be leaving town, and murders long hidden are returning to the surface.
Anyone who, like me, enjoyed reading Chocolat twenty years ago now, will I am sure get a lot of pleasure from returning to this lovely landscape and this quirky cast of characters.