I’ve read some really great books lately and have been keeping them mostly to myself. Today, the selfishness ends!
The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris (whom I’ve slathered much love on here and here) is the next chapter of the story of Vianne and Anouk Rocher from Chocolat (the book, of course, not the film, though the stories are close enough that film-goers would enjoy it, I think). It is every bit as wonderful as Harris’s best stuff.
It’s five years since we’ve been in Lansquenet and things are very different for Vianne. She’s given birth to a second child (Rosette) and has consented to marry a man she does not love. She’s hiding from the world instead of trying to bring magic to it. Anouk is entering puberty afraid of herself, the magic inside her and the world around her, and wishes her mother was the woman she used to be. Enter Zozie.
Zozie is everything Vianne used to be, but without the compassion and kindness. She is cool and interesting and not afraid to attract attention. She sees the potential in Anouk and wants it for her own selfish reasons. But in truth, she’s hiding even more than Vianne is – from herself more than anyone.
Harris’s writing is stellar, as always. The copy I have is the P.S. version, with interviews and background material, and I read every bit so I could live with the book and characters a little longer. I was visiting my sister and her family in the wilds of Northwest Montana and read it by flashlight in my tent, surrounded by the sounds of horses grazing around (and sometimes underneath) my tent late at night. The strange surroundings only added to the feeling that I was really in another world, living with Anouk and the others in Paris.
I’m not sure I can articulate what it is I love about Harris. It’s the same thing I love about a lot of authors, who write a lot of different stuff (Miéville, Chabon, De Lint, Shields, Kingsolver). Her works speaks of truths I knew but hadn’t recognized. Her characters are people I’ve been, or met, or would like to meet. I feel as if I know myself better at the end of the book than I did at the beginning. Her writing has a beauty apart from the meaning of the words. Her work helps me feel more strongly connected to the world.
It’s hard to turn the last page, sometimes, and let that go.