Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Girl with No Shadow - Joanne Harris

I read Joanne Harris's popular novel Chocolat and saw the movie based on it so long ago that I can barely remember what it was about - other than a chocolate shop in France. But, I do recall enjoying it and finding it quite magical. So, while at Denver's famous Tattered Cover bookstore (www.tatteredcover.com) with Sara recently, I was excited to discover this sequel. The Girl with No Shadow opens with Vianne and Anouk (of Chocolat fame) in a new city under new identities, Yanne and Annie. Yanne is struggling to keep her new chocolaterie afloat. She is dating her landlord, a successful businessman who wants to marry her, but has no love for Anouk or Yanne's reticent four-year old, Rosette. Anouk, now almost a teenager, is having issues herself, trying to fit into school but knowing that there is a strange power within her yearning to break free. Suddenly, the wind blows Zozie into their lives. A stranger with no apparent history, Zozie ingratiates herself into their lives, bringing prosperity, but at a price. Harris tells her story from the alternating perspective of Yanne, Anouk, and Zozie (a device I am slowly becoming so tired of). We see Zozie's scheming, and the mesmerizing effect it is having on everyone, particularly Anouk. It's clear to the reader from the outset that if Zozie has her way, things will not end well, but throughout the novel it does not become entirely clear why Zozie has chosen Yanne's life to destroy. I enjoyed the magic aspect - reminding me fondly of Alice Hoffman's books - but in the end, my dislike for Zozie was so strong that I could hardly bring myself to read the climax, but I'm glad that I did - and the return of Roux (Yanne's ex-flame) brought hope to an otherwise bleak story. The book takes place during the Christmas holiday season, so this is a perfect time of year to read it. It made me hungry for big cups of hot chocolate, and convinced me to go back and reread Chocolat.

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