Illuminating Peter Mayle's South of France with a touch of Laura Esquivel's magic realism, Chocolat is a timeless novel of a straitlaced village's awakening to joy and sensuality. In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne's uncanny perception of its buyer's private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Chocolat's every page offers a description of chocolate to melt in the mouths of chocoholics, francophiles, armchair gourmets, cookbook readers, and lovers of passion everywhere. It's a must for anyone who craves an escapist read, and is a bewitching gift for any holiday.
I've highlighted the last part of the summary, because I couldn't phrase it better myself.
Chocolat is a fine work of proze. I loved to read, I savoured it immensely and closed the book hungry for sweets.
The atmosphere in the novel feels very southern of France, the rustic villages, the seasons soothing and scorching the earth, the union between man and nature, and Vianne adds a little pleasurable erotic atmosphere to an already awakening tide.
Travelling in with the winds of Mardi Gras, she soon opens the doors to her chocolate store, on the very first day of Lenten.
This strikes with the local parish and a silent yet hungry war has started. Vianna, blessed with a gift for seeing people, seems to realize that she and père Reynaud are two sides of one marble and one can't see the sun without the other being in the dirt.
Even though his stubborn fight against her 'pagan ways' the town slowly falls into her arms and embraces the gift of life for what it is, instead of feeling guilty we even thought of being born at all.
Like Vianne said, she doesn't believe in sin. And in truth, why should we? There's bad and there's good, and as long as we know which side to walk on, we'll all be okay.
Enough of the moral lesson, more on the food.
Chocolat is a novel you could classify under food porn. I don't mean that in a bad way, but having a passion for the edible arts, I truly loved the descriptions of how she makes her chocolate. Every syllable has a particular taste, scented with vanilla and cinnamon, the words gave me a freefeeling, flying as a bird sensation. Almost all the joys of chocolat, and none of the calories! :)
All in all, this novel scores a 8 out of 10, which would be Magnificent.