The Lollipop Shoes: Joanne Harris

By Margie Thomson

It was Chocolat that made Joanne Harris famous and with which she will always be associated. I interviewed her a few years ago, on the eve of the release of the film (starring Juliet Binoche and Johnny Depp) that was made of her iconic book, and she shared with me her recipe for Vianne's Spiced Hot Chocolate, something I've always been childishly proud of, even though she went on to publish it in her recipe book The French Kitchen.

There is something so thrilling about having been personally endowed with a chocolate-based recipe from the queen of 70 per cent cocoa solids.

Between Chocolat and now, Harris has carried on writing - six other novels in the interim, as well as a couple of recipe books and a re-release - and now she has, irresistibly, revisited her greatest creation and produced a sequel.

Here again are Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk - but they're calling themselves Yanne and Annie, and they've been joined by Vianne's younger daughter Rosette. Lansquenet has been left far behind and now the trio are living (hiding?) in Montmartre, above - you guessed it - a little chocolate shop.

There they are joined by the apparently fabulous Zozie de l'Alba, although with a name like that, it's obvious there's something devious about her.

In fact, she's the black to Vianne's white, and so the scene is set for a kind of magical showdown, albeit with truffles, macaroons, soft centres and, most fittingly, bitter almond crisp.

Despite its title, The Lollipop Shoes is quite dark and very in thrall to mystical forces.

Personally, I didn't have much patience with the supernatural elements, which seemed far more dominant than in Chocolat.

But Harris' eye for character, her unromantic reading of human motivation and her preparedness to fossick around in some truly bleak corners of the soul give her stories real weight where lesser writers in the same genre (romance? gastromance?) would produce only froth.

* Doubleday, $36.99

- Extra

See Joanne Harris at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival:
An hour with Joanne Harris, May 26, 12.30-1.30pm.

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