On mystical winds Vianne and her six year old daughter Anouk arrive in a quaint old French village named Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. What better day to arrive than Shrove Tuesday! Vianne having taken a lease on the old Blaireau’s bakery has honeyed plans for a new shop in town. La Céleste Praline Chocolaterie Artisanale situated across from the town’s church, makes its opening during Lent, the traditional time of self-denial. Father Reynaud is more than disconcerted. The idea of his flock giving into temptations of sweet-smelling sugary confections (florentines, éclairs, steaming mocha drinks, and glazed pralines) reveals his true nature. Every town has its secrets and every inhabitant skeletons in their closets. Will chocolate divide a town with its decadence and chance of gluttony or will tolerance and moderation find a place in the hearts of the townsfolk?
The story is told with two narratives. One is Vianne and the other the Priest Reynaud. There are a plethora of characters to meet and even the chance to fall in love with some of them. There are even chances to despise some of them. Throughout the story’s unfolding you will find that you are not merely reading about chocolate and the pleasant delectable smooth syrup sating individual taste buds, but are caught up in quite a few moral and philosophical quandaries. Some have viewed this book as a slam on the church; on the other hand, I view it a bit differently. What we read is based on our perception as well as what an author wishes to convey. Even though morality, staunch criticisms, and ethical dilemmas may enter the pages of Reynaud’s version could it not be that we are to look more closely at the character and not the church? Is the church turning a blind eye to its victims or the priest? Saying the church made me do it is the same as saying the devil made me do it! Reynaud clearly struggles to answer these very questions in his own narrative. Will he ever understand that abstinence does lead to frustration? His frustration rises in such levels that he, the town’s very priest is in peril of breaking his own valued scruples.
Undeniably there are pages filled to brim with cooking and the talk of melodiousness smells and tastes for every little confection. If you can see your way through that, perhaps you might find an understanding of how each particular sweet is someone’s favorite. How should it be that Vianne always knows their favorite? Has a witch arrived in town to lure people from saintly lives with chocolate confections?
I openly admit for me it was quite hard to pick a favorite character; however, I fell immensely in love with Armande. (That is why I don’t go in-depth about her in this review.)With that statement I leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“I could do with a bit more excess. From now on I’m going to be immoderate—and volatile—I shall enjoy loud music and lurid poetry. I shall be ‘rampant’, she declared with satisfaction.” —Armande
— Obscured Dreamer, Guest Blogger