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The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris - Review

Monday, April 22, 2019

As you'll know, I'm a big fan of Joanne Harris' books set in France, which often have white witches as their main characters and are filled with drama. I haven't got on with her later novels, and find her absolutely insufferable on Twitter, so I don't keep up with her newer work. I know she's been writing some mythological stuff and I know I should try some, but I keep finding other stuff to read instead. But, I heard that Joanne had written another book about her characters from Chocolat, and I knew I wanted to read it so ordered it immediately as a bit of a gift to myself.

In Chocolat we met Vianne and her daughter Anouk, who are both quite magical and psychic. They move to a small town called Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and open a chocolate shop. Vianne's magic lies in chocolate - she scries with it and she can tell what chocolates people need to unlock parts of themselves. In that novel she comes up against the local priest, Reynaud, and eventually she and Anouk leave Lansquenet. I loved Chocolat when I first read it in around 2000.

In The Lollipop Shoes Vianne and Anouk are living in Paris, now with Vianne's younger daughter Rosette. The mysterious Zozie de L'Alba appears in their lives and starts to cause mayhem. I think The Lollipop Shoes is my favourite of the series.

In Peaches for Monsieur le Curé Vianne gets a letter from an old friends and goes back to Lansquenet. Reynaud is a big part of this book too. I didn't like it too much, I felt it dragged. But I still wanted to read The Strawberry Thief.

Firstly I have to say that it is nice to be back among familiar characters. Vianne isn't as present in this book as Rosette and Reynaud, but I still like her brand of magic. Reynaud has morphed into quite a sympathetic character and I liked his parts of the book best. Rosette also gets her point of view, and this is where the book fell down for me.

But about the book: Narcisse, an old farmer in Lansquenet, dies, and leaves part of his property to Rosette. No one can really work out why, except that he was fond of her, but he's left a letter of confession to Reynaud which we also read. Reynaud is trying to be absolved of his own sins. Narcisse's old flower shop is rented out to a mysterious newcomer, and everyone feels her pull, including Rosette.

Rosette is a disabled child. In the earlier books she doesn't speak but can use sign language. When she does speak Accidents tend to happen (as she can't really control her magic) so she often doesn't. Through her point of view though we can see that she understands much of what is said about her. She is sixteen but still very childlike and her friends are getting tired of her. Vianne also fears what will happen to her and tries to keep her close.

I thought that Rosette's point of view was really well written until the end of the book, when something happens that really frustrated me. I don't know. I did like the book, but with huge caveats.

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