As I said in my response to Chocolat, I had no idea there were sequels and I’m so glad I decided to read them. I haven’t started the third, Peaches for Father Frances, but I’m excited to start it soon.
Harris takes the story of Vianne and Anouk we followed in Chocolat and expands the age-old battle between good and evil. Instead of the church, this time Vianne and Anouk, now Yanne and Annie, are battling evil itself and magic takes an even more prominent role in this story than in the first. And I was glad she did! She writes about magic in such a way as to make it beautifully common.
“It took me a little longer to recognize these things as magic. Like all children reared on stories, I’d expected fireworks: magic wands and broomstick rides. The real magic of my mother’s books seemed so dull, so fustily academic, with its silly incantations and its pompous old men, that it hardly counted as magic at all.” (67)
Beautifully common, might sound like an oxymoron or an insult, but it’s not. Harris’ writes about it so matter of fact and sets it up that way in this novel, common usage versus evil usage, that you can’t help but appreciate the beauty of the magic she chooses to write about.
Similar to the first in the series, this book revolves around a specific period of time finalized with a final holiday, in this instance the fall – October 31 through December 25. What’s great is that it encompasses the two newest characters, Zozie de l’Alba – Día de los Muertos, and Rosette – Christmas, she’s a winter baby. This works great as Harris once again set the story in a chocolaterie (see the last paragraph for why I think the US title is stupid).
The key difference between the novels and what makes it more than just a sequel is the added views of Anouk. Rather than just having Vianne and her opposition (this time Zozie de l’Alba), we have Anouk’s views on everything and she appears to be a pawn in the battle between good and evil, organization and chaos. I won’t go more into the story, but it is different enough from Chocolat that I can see a completely different audience being drawn in to this one.
Harris’ strengths lie in her minor characters and her details. Both books in the series have incredibly lively and memorable minor characters. From Armand in the first to Jean-Loup in this novel, there’s never a scene without a minor character. And as much as the minor characters stand in for myriad stereotypes, they provide uniqueness and back stories for the village settings.
“I couldn’t help laughing at his expression. Everything in Thierry’s world has to be done according to plan. There are rules for everything; schedules to be met; guidelines to be followed. A lunch table , booked, cannot be unbooked, and even though we both know that he is happiest in a place like Le P’tit Pinson, today he has chosen La Maison Rose, for which Anouk must wear a dress. That’s the way he is, of course—rock solid, predictable, in control—but sometimes I wish he wasn’t quite as inflexible, that he could find room for a little spontaneity—” (179)
Just the way she describes the characters makes you want to know them, good and bad. Each one’s personality shines through in the tiniest of details.
If there was one thing I absolutely didn’t like about this novel, it’s that the publishers decided to change the title for the US audience. Known as The Lollipop Shoes everywhere else in the world, I’m confused why they changed it. The Lollipop Shoes is an amazing title and works with the food theme of the other novels in the series, but no the American’s can’t handle it for some reason and we had to have a new title. I guess they tried to make it sound “more serious” in choosing to change the title, but I feel that the novel lost a bit of its whimsy in doing so.
Recommendation: If you enjoyed Chocolat you’ll enjoy this one. If you like magic and battles between good and evil you’ll definitely enjoy it.
Opening Line: “It is a relatively little-known fact that, over the course of a single year, about twenty million letters are delivered to the dead.”
Closing Line: “And I go where the wind takes me.” (Whited out.)