Now THIS is how you end a trilogy. I assume this is the end, but I guess it could start-up again. Peaches for Father Francis picks up four years after the events of The Girl With No Shadow and eight years after the original Chocolat. I’m still so happy that I found out this was a series and that I took the time to read the second and third novels, even if it did put me behind on a few other books!
What I enjoyed most about this novel is that the magic once again took a back seat to a larger social conflict. In the middle novel, The Girl With No Shadow, magic took the front seat and that was great because middle novels are always sort of meh, but in having the magic return to less of a focal point the story, I felt, evolved much more naturally.
This story sees Vianne, Anouk and Rosette return to the little French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and this time rather than working against Father Frances, they are there to help him. In the eight years that they’ve been away a large Muslim community has moved in to Les Maurads and the friction is palpable. As with the other stories in this series it is around a very specific time period, this time it is Ramadan (August-September) and Harris once again uses the wind as a major plot driver.
Harris does a great job in writing the story to seem to be about a conflict between the two religions, and describes religions/faiths in a way I found apt,
“Faith is about obedience; adherence to the rules; keeping order. Otherwise, we’d have anarchy. Everybody knows that. That’s why the Church has its hierarchy; a stable pyramid of command; every member in his place and briefed on a need-to-know basis. The public accepts what we chose to reveal. God, in His turn, does the same. Order. Control. Obedience. Because if we let people know the truth – that even we have no certainties – then everything the Church has built over the past two thousand years would be nothing but a handful of paper and dust—” (386-7)
But in the end the story is not about the differences between religions, so much as it is about the differences between people and that’s where Vianne comes in. I loved this quote about Vianne
“I have never belonged to a tribe. It gives me a perspective. Perhaps if I did, I too would feel ill at ease in Les Marauds. But I have always been different. Perhaps that’s why I find it easier to cross the narrow boundaries between one tribe and the next. To belong means to exclude; to think in terms of us and them – two little words that, juxtaposed, so often lead to conflicts.” (131-2)
It really brought home her role in the first and third stories and honestly made me connect to the character that much more.
Harris’ research on Islam and Muslims was very well researched and she wrote about touchy subjects, like veiling and male/female relations, with respect and honesty. There were of course cheeky nods to the extreme conservatism found in both Christianity and Islam, which only further showed to highlight the excellent characters.
Recommendation: This was a fantastic novel and a great conclusion (I think) to Vianne’s story. It was also incredibly timely when it was written, and still is today. It’s a light, yet poignant, take on inter-religious relations, adaptability and immigration.
Opening Line: “Someone once told me that, in France alone, a quarter of a million letters are delivered every year to the dead.”
Closing Line: “We have a party to go to.” (Whited out.)