Harris’s books appear in charity shops frequently, so I find myself buying them as cheap relaxing reads. I couldn’t resist this one when I realised it goes back to Vianne of Chocolat and Lollipop Shoes again.
This has strong parrallels to the original Chocolat, looking at conflict within the traditional rural community of Lansquenet. However this time instead of being set in Lent it is set in Ramadan. But eight years have passed, people have grown up, the community around the chocolate shop has changed and Father Reynaud is possibly no longer The Black Man against whom Vianne has to battle. But the magic still works and communication through food is still at the core of the story.
I was a little worried about how the Islamic component of the story would be handled, especially as at first it felt as though the new community had been brought in purely to provide a different background to Chocolat. Then there was the concern about the new antagonists seeming to be purely from the Islamic community.
Of course Harris moves into a world where life is not that black and white and everyone is shown to have complex motivations driven by plausible experiences, loyalties, guilt, love and fear. I’m still not sure I like the ending: even if it is the only solution it seems too brutal.