July 25, 2012

The Lollipop Shoes - Joanne Harris

The thing about sequels is that as a reader you come to them with so many expectations - you want a story and characters that resonate with you the same way in which the first book did and you want them to taken further so that you feel you are getting even more of the story - an extension of what wasn't able to be given to you in the first book. You also want a sequel to carry on the tone and spirit of the initial story - you want to feel as though you are in the same world - with slight differences. These might be unrealistic expectations but they are there all the same. They are very much the expectations I had when I started reading The Lollipop Shoes, the sequel to Chocolat as part of our Paris in July event. Unfortunately, after finishing The Lollipop Shoes I didn't feel as though my sequel expectations had been met and I was left grieving for the magical feeling I had when I first read Chocolat. The risk of reading sequels!!
The Lollipop Shoes is set 5 years after Chocolat ends - Vianne (now known as Yanne), her eldest daughter Anouk (now know as Annie) and her youngest daughter Rosette are living in the Montmartre district of Paris again working in a chocolate shop but one that has none of the magic or distinctiveness of the shop Vianne had established in the village of Lansquenet. Yanne has worked hard to fade into the background, creating a "normal" life for her and her children, courting no magic or disruption. This seems like a reasonable wish for a mother of two young children but it does not feel true to the character of Vianne/Yanne at all - the spunky, vivacious woman from Chocolat has all but disappeared making the tone of the novel feel flat and hopeless. Harris has introduced a new character to try and balance this out, Zozie de l'Alba enters Yanne's live and brings the magic she is unable, or unwilling,  to rustle up herself at this time. Zozie is more than what she seems and her magic, while bringing new found success and prosperity to the chocolate shop, has its downsides in the way she uses it to play Anouk and create more of a division between mother and daughter bringing the book to its ultimate climax.
This book is much longer than Chocolat - although I didn't feel it needed to be this long the end part of the book was much more engaging that the beginning and middle sections. Some familiar characters from Chocolat arrive on the scene - but even they are not able to spark the book up for me. This was just a case of the sequel not hitting the mark, or coming close to being as wonderful as the book that inspired it. I was planning to read the third book in the series, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure but I think I will stop while I am slightly ahead and the magic and glow of Chocolat is still glowing...

July 23, 2012

Paris in July - Week 3 Wrap Up

I can't believe we are already at the end of our third week for this years Paris in July event - time sure does fly when you are in France!!
I'm still wistfully looking at the pile of books that I want to get through before the end of the month and I just know Paris themed reading is going to be continuing well into August for me...
One of the highlights for me this week was an interview with Tamara and I by the lovely Charlotte from The Book on the Hill - please check it out here if you have not already. Many thanks to Charlotte for including us and our Paris in July event on her blog.
I did manage to finish The Lollipop Shoes this week and I will post my review very soon.
In the meantime I would love to catch up on what everyone else has been reading, watching, cooking etc... over this third week so please list the links to your posts in the comments section below.
And into the final week we go...

July 17, 2012

Paris in July - for the small ones

This Paris in July is extra special for me as it is the month that my partner and I are expecting our little Baby BookBath to arrive. She already has a full bookcase awaiting her arrival and quite a few Paris/French related reading waiting for her...

Madeline is a classic that I just had to have for her collection - I even managed to find a board book copy so she read it earlier in her life!

I haven't actually read The Fleurville Trilogy by Countess de Segur but I have read that they are supposed to "French Classics" and they are beautiful, cute books that I'm hoping will be a good read as well.

Pom Pom Where are You? is a gorgeous picture book about a dog lost in Paris - already a favourite with me!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a book I actually bought for myself after seeing and falling in love with the movie version of the book - but I am willing to share my books with Baby BookBath!

Are there other French children's books you would recommend I add to this collection? I'm sure there are many missing...

July 12, 2012

Chocolat - Joanne Harris

My second completed read for our Paris in July 2012 event was a re-read of a much loved novel for me, Chocolat by Joanne Harris.
I remember reading this book when it was first released and what a fuss it created in the reading world - it was one of those books that people asked you if you had read and that you passed on to others once you had read it yourself. It really has a winning combination, chocolate, France, travel, wanderlust, magic, love and of course, more chocolate! Joanne Harris has written a lovely piece on her website about her influences in writing the book.
Chocolat is the story of Vianne Rocher, a young woman recently arrived in the small French village of Lansquent with her six year old daughter, Anouk. Vianne and Anouk are travellers through life, rarely settling in one place for very long but in Lansquent Vianne sees the opportunity to try and create a home for herself and her daughter and so they settle in an old bakery with Vianne turning the shop into the La Celeste Paraline Chocolaterie Artisanale - a decadent chocolate shop filled with Vianne's hand made creations.
From the very beginning it it clear that Chocolat is a book for all the senses;

We came on the wind of the carnival. A warm wind for February, laden with the hot greasy scents of frying pancakes and sausages and powdery-sweet waffles cooked on the hotplate right there by the roadside, with the confetti sleeting down collars and cuffs and rolling in the gutters like an idiot antidote to winter.

It is Harris' sensual and evocative writing that really makes Chocolat such a beautiful book for me - I really feel as though I have been transported to this French village and am sitting in the Chocolaterie drinking a rich, creamy hot chocolate with a truffle on the side...
Of course Vianne's dramatic entrance to the community of Lansquent and her establishing of a chocolate shop in the middle of lent does not go unnoticed. The local priest, Reynaud, takes particular offence to Vianne and Anouk's arrival and sets out to damage her reputation and turn the community away from their lusts for her chocolate and friendly company.
Chocolat is still as beautiful and enriching to me as the first time I read it, a book that takes the reader to France and the world of magic and chocolate without being unreal or completely escapist.

July 08, 2012

Paris in July - Week 1 Wrap Up

I can't believe the first week of Paris in July is already over! Time flies when you are having fun...
I have finished my re-read of Chocolat (review post to come this week) and have started reading the sequel The Lollipop Shoes which I have to say is a very different book to the first.
I'm really looking forward to reading about and seeing what everyone else has been up to this week so please add all your Paris in July related post links in the comments section below this post so that we can all follow along. Please forgive me for no adding a Mr Linky but my computer skills have abandoned me and although I know it should be easy to work out my brain is just not functioning so well today!!
Remember, it is never too late to join in the fun so please go to the introduction post here if you would like to add your name to the Paris in July 2012 event.
Tamara will be wrapping up Week 2 so head over to her blog, Thyme for Tea at the end of this week to see what Paris/French related fun has gone on this week.
Happy Paris in July everyone!!

July 06, 2012

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky - Simon Mawer

Mawer’s book, The Glass Room, was a complete winner for me when I read it in 2009 so I had no hesitations in picking up his new book, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. Even though I finished the book at the end of last month I am going to cheat a little and include it in my Paris in July reading list as so much of the book took place in Paris and rural France.
I can’t say that I found The Girl Who Fell From the Sky quite as captivating and original as The Glass Room but it was still a wonderful read.
The book is set during WW2, the main character Marian Sutro is a young half British/half French woman working for a war department in London when she approached by a secret agency to train for undercover work in France. It all seems a little surreal and convenient the way she is recruited but I guess that is how things were done?? I would like to read some actual accounts from women who had worked in these sorts of positions and agencies during war time to compare - although I am sure Mawer did his research. As well as her role as an undercover agent there is very much a personal side to Marian’s story as her arrival in Paris during the German occupation brings her into direct contact with a past family friend and potential lover, Clement.
There are all the elements of a traditional spy story here with undercover missions, double agents and a feeling on behalf of the reader that we are never really quite sure who’s side everyone is on. But there is also very much the coming of age story of Marian.

Beautiful, tight prose keep the story moving and although this book didn’t hold the same magic as The Glass Room for me it was still a fantastic story with characters to cling to.

July 01, 2012

Welcome to Paris in July!

Welcome everyone to the start of our Paris in July event for 2012! If you haven't already, head over to this post and add your name to the Mr Linky list for the event, and if you would like to know more about what Paris in July is all about, head over to this post. We try to make everything simple and easy for those wanting to get involved - no targets, no restrictions really - just bring your love of Paris and France and join in! Tamara has already got us started with a post about prize winning French literature which might give you some ideas if you are still looking for books to add to your lists.
I have been looking through my shelves trying to put a reading plan together for the month.
I am starting out with a re-read of one of my favourite novels ever, Chocolat by Joanne Harris and I then plan to move onto the other 2 books in the trilogy, The Lollipop Shoes and the newly released, Peaches For Monsieur le Cure.

I also have plenty of non-fiction books available to dip into during the month as well as a little Sartre in the form of The Age of Reason.

I'm thinking these will probably keep me going for the month but I'm sure I will get diverted when I start reading everyone elses posts...
I will try to do some more blogging in amongst my reading this week but I will definitely be back on Sunday to put up a wrap up post for the week and create a new Mr Linky for you to add your weekly posts to.
Happy Paris in July everyone!