From the best-selling author of Chocolat, Peaches for Monsieur le Curé returns to the life of master chocolatier Vianna Rocher, who moved eight years previously to the sleepy French village of Lansquenet and tempted life and passion back to into the souls of its inhabitants by opening a chocolate boutique opposite the stifling church.
Vianna has been contentedly living with Roux and her daughters on a houseboat in Paris since she left Lansquenett eight years ago, rolling truffles in the rather romantic background of Montmatre. But when a letter reaches Vianna from beyond the grave her fingers curl around the words of an old friend and she is drawn back to the village in an attempt to save it from destruction once again.
But time has passed and Lansquenet is not now the timid little French village it used to be. Women walk the streets veiled in black and the scent of spices mixed with peppermint tea float in the air above Vianna’s confusion. Lansquenett’s new residents have brought their own North African traditions with them to the village, and they meet those of the French catholicists in a modern image of multicultural France.
Peaches is a delightful novel about family, community, temptation and isolation and a nostalgic look at the passing of time, which Vianna considers is ‘like perfume in a bottle, however tight the seal, evaporating so slyly that, when you open it to look, all you find is a scented smear where once there was enough to spare’. Elements of a magic world (Vianna’s chocolatier profession dovetails with one of witchcraft) are perhaps a little overplayed and seem mainly intended to provide a third-dimension to this otherwise fairly uncomplicated story of a community at war – but I shy away from the supernatural in general and this is, of course, just a matter of opinion.
Regardless, Harris’ ability to immerse the reader in the sights, scents and tastes of Lansquenet are again inspired, Vianna’s joie de vivre infectious, and the simple beauty of descriptions; voices as dry as cocoa dust, ricochets on the oily Seine, and rich, pink peaches hanging from a tree as old as time, make Peaches with Monsieur le Curé a complete delight to read.
Peaches with Monsieur le Curé is available now from Doubleday.
Words: Lucy Holden