Dark arts and chocolate in Paris

2008-10-02 08:04

IF you haven't read Joanne Harris's earlier novel, Chocolat, in which Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk created a scandal in the small French town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes by opening a chocolaterie during Lent, it doesn't really matter. You'll pick up the threads quickly enough in The Lollipop Shoes.

Vianne, now calling herself Yanne Charbonneau, her mute four-year-old daughter Rosette and Anouk, now Annie, live above a chocolate shop in Montmartre in Paris. It's a dismal existence. Vianne, a white witch, has grown fearful of being seen as different and is trying hard to “fit in”. She's opted for anonymity, which means no more magic, no more handmade chocolates, no more red dresses - nothing unusual that could mark her out. She's even thinking about marrying her landlord, in the hopes that this will provide security for her daughters. The fact that he doesn't like chocolate seems a small price to pay for that security.

But Annie, with supernatural talents of her own, is reaching puberty and feeling rebellious, and Rosette is also showing signs of having inherited her mother's witchly talents.

Into their lives blows Zozie de l'Alba in her spangle-heeled, lollipop shoes - beautiful, flamboyant and everyone's best friend. However, Zozie is not what she seems. She is a shape-shifter and an identity thief, a 21st-century witch who is just as likely to use the Internet as charms and magic to find out what she needs to know.

Where Vianne used to use her insights for good, Zozie is a cold-blooded proponent of the dark arts. Ruthless, devious and seductive, this time she is after more than just a new identity. By the time Vianne realises what the terrible price is for Zozie's “friendship” it is almost too late. She has a choice - to flee as she has done so many times before, or to stand and fight.

I devoured this book as hungrily as Vianne's customers do her truffles, macaroons and mendiants. It's a delicious treat for those who are prepared to let a little magic into their lives.

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