Peaches is the latest novel in Harris’ repertoire to feature Vianne Rocher, the lead character in Harris’ most celebrated book Chocolat. Vianne reappeared in a 2007 publication entitled The Lollipop Shoes of which I have to say I wasn’t a fan.
In Chocolat Vianne is a character we grow to love, we celebrate the relationship between her and her daughter Anouk and we understand her and her history. Lollipop Shoes takes all the emotions we feel towards Vianne and turns them on their head as we view her through the eyes of an older, more cynical Anouk and a new-comer Zozie. I hate when books do this because it changes everything, your perceptions of a character and the way in which you view the world they inhabit. So I hope you can see why I was worried about revisiting Vianne and Anouk in this latest offering.
I needn’t have worried. Peaches follows the example set by Chocolat and is told from the perspective of Vianne and her old adversary, Monsieur Reynaud, the titular Curé. Times have changed in Lansquenut-sous-Tannes when Vianne returns at the bidding of an old friend and trouble is brewing. As we would expect Vianne throws herself into village life once more, bustling around trying to solve everyone’s problems at once and dispensing chocolate once more. But she is an older version of herself and has clearly been affected by the events of The Lollipop Shoes so is a slightly more complex person than she once was.
Harris has aged her characters well, the marks of the past lie on them believably and I found myself warming to them in a way that I never did in the second book. The one off-colour aspect here is Vianne’s relationship with Roux but since he is absent for most of the book that isn’t much of a problem. I also found the secret that Joséphine is hiding difficult to swallow but otherwise this book restored my faith in Lansquenet and its inhabitants.
I will however be extremely dubious of any future offering. I have the feeling that this book was designed to win back fans who may have been put off by The Lollipop Shoes as it followed the outline of Chocolat; the characters may have been different but the storyline was distinctly similar. Perhaps it is time to leave Vianne where she is.