As you may know I was asked to review Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure for Random House.  Here is my review, enjoy!

I was a little apprehensive reading Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure as I hadn’t read Chocolat and was unsure if I would understand the characters or get into the book.  I needn’t have been.  The characters are so strongly put together that the vital threads from previous books are sewn into this one and in no time I was absorbed in Vianne Rocher’s world.

The story picks up 8 years after Vianne Rocher had left the small French village of Lansquenet with her two daughters Anouk and Rosette, along with her river gypsy partner Roux.  She receives a letter out of the blue from a dead friend urging her to return back to the village.  There she finds that her old enemy Francis Reynaud needs her help above all others.  There is “a war”.

Joanne Harris has a wonderful way of setting scenes and describing places so intricately that the reader can almost feel the cobblestones underfoot or be at the table of Vianne’s warm, welcoming French home.  The food is described  particularly accurately and it’s as if some pages have the smells and tastes of coconut macaroons and peach jam infused in them.  The images conjured of the characters are a little vaguer and the imagination is left to run free and to draw your own interpretation.  Francis Reynaud for example, is far from a likeable character and when he ran into trouble there is little compassion for him.  For someone who hasn’t read Chocolat, I was still aware that he was certainly no angel but depending on the chapter you read you can easily switch from being for or against him.  Maybe the other characters were purposefully left vague, as Muslim women hidden under veils it seems in the book, are hard to read or even recognise at times.

The storyline of Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure is like the river Seine.  Steadily moving, with faster currents, gentle turns and locks here and there but with an ever constant view which you never tire of.  This book is easily read and knocked over in a couple of days, it’s a large book but such an easy read that you find yourself blasting through chapters without even realising.  The plot is enough to keep you going and the poetic descriptions of places, situations and of course chocolates conjure up a miniature movie in your head.  Before long you are nearing the end of the book and waiting for the finale, which inevitably comes along.

The reader knows a plot will thicken or story will take a turn through numerous references to the wind in almost every chapter.  The white wind, the black wind, the wind is warm, the wind is cold.  This becomes slightly tiresome and the moment you read of the wind you immediately know something is about to change and the suspense is dulled.

The Muslim settlers are the main focus of the book.  Joanne does a great job of keeping these characters, situations and assumptions of culture in broad stroke form so as not to polarise or become too political.  There is a glimpse into Muslim life but it’s careful to be balanced in both storyline and character reference.  There is after all good and bad in everybody whatever their creed or colour.

Peaches is a great book, an easy read full of gentle magic, suspense and a window into small town life and how some of us adjust, fear, hate or welcome change with open arms.

Joanne Harris is at the Brisbane Writers Festival