More magic and chocolate in Harris’ new novel
Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2008
“The Girl With No Shadow,” by Joanne Harris. William Morrow. 2008. 464 pp. $24.95.By Deirdre Parker Smith
“The Girl With No Shadow,” Joanne Harris’ “continuation” of her bestseller “Chocolat” is titled “The Lollipop Shoes” overseas.
Although that seems better suited for a children’s book, it is really more descriptive of this colorful, imaginative and engrossing novel.
Harris will speak at the Brady Author’s Symposium at Catawba College on Thursday.
“The Girl With No Shadow” brings back “Chocolat” characters Vianne Rocher, her daughter Anouk, and Roux, and moves forward four years.
If you haven’t read the first book or seen the movie, don’t worry. This new novel shimmers with vivid characterization, brilliant description and a bubbling plot.
Told by three first-person narrators, a favorite device of Harris’, “The Girl With No Shadow” is a boxful of irresistible chocolates ó all with surprise fillings.
The book opens on Halloween in a chapter narrated by a woman with too many names to count. Her newest persona is Zozie de l’Alba, a woman of mixed European ancestry. She’s pretty, vivacious, friendly. People instantly trust her.
She is the wearer of the lollipop shoes ó all colors and styles, from purple to yellow to red stacked heels covered in sparkles.
Something like that.
The other narrators are Vianne, now going by the name Yanne Charbonneau, and her daughter, Anouk, now called Annie.
Having so many narrators can be confusing, but Harris makes clear who’s who. Zozie aims to steal Vianne Rocher’s name and child, and her voice and mannerisms begin to mimic her victim’s.
“I studied and learned,” Zozie writes. “My curriculum was unorthodox, some might say profane, but I was always top of the class. My mother knew little about my research … Interventionist magic, as she liked to call it, was the very antithesis of her belief, and she held a number of quaint theories promising cosmic retribution on those who dared to act for themselves.”
The child she covets, Anouk, is beguiling. She’s different. And her classmates know it. Her so-called best friend gives her a list of all the things that are wrong with her, from her hair to her shoes.
She and her mother and her new sister, Rosette, live above a tiny chocolate shop in Paris.
Vianne, who is tired of running from unwanted questions, wants a normal life ó no magic. She wants Anouk in school and a stable atmosphere for Rosette, who, at 4, still does not speak or use a spoon. She can sign and draw and laugh and has her own magic.
Vianne isn’t making chocolate anymore, either. Her doting landlord, Thierry, wants to marry her, and she sees in him a stability she thinks will make their lives easier.
She suppresses all thoughts of Roux ó her love in “Chocolat” ó not one for settling down.
In flies Zozie, colors flashing, embracing Anouk, becoming her best friend and Vianne’s, too. She charms everyone in the neighborhood and encourages Vianne to start making chocolate again ó a chance to reclaim part of who she was.
The tone of Zozie’s narration hints at her more sinister purposes. She is a stealer, not just of identities, but souls, and the suppressed magic she finds in Vianne, Anouk and even Rosette is an irresistible draw.
Anouk confides in Zozie, who encourages her differences and shows her how to play it up ó even loaning her those red shoes. It’s all part of the plan to steal her. Zozie tells her to develop her magic skills and teaches her a few darker spells .
Harris adapts Zozie’s magic from Mesoamerica, (the origin of chocolate), bringing in Aztec and Mayan folklore, showing a real dichotomy between white and dark magic.Harris writes on her Web site, www.joanneharris.co.uk, that the name Zozie comes from the French “sosie,” meaning “double” or “mirror image.”
The problem is, her reflection is hideously dark and desperate ó but she’s so good at camouflage, no one sees her terrifying truth until it is almost too late.
Don’t believe in magic? Harris will draw you in to that world, where thinking a thing can make it happen.
Reading “The Girl With No Shadow” is an encompassing experience. Harris is so good at setting a tone, readers will feel cold when it snows on Christmas Eve or wet in the crumbling cemetery where Anouk and her friend Jean-Loup take photographs.
As Vianne tempers her chocolate and makes truffles or mendiants, the intoxicating scent will fill the reading room.
If you’re lucky, you will see Pantoufle, Anouk’s imaginary rabbit friend, and Bam, Rosette’s monkey protector.
Suspend all disbelief, don’t ask logical questions. Instead, steep yourself in the hot chocolate with nutmeg and chili.
Harris gives readers an exciting and somewhat frightening final confrontation, actually, several, as Zozie battles for Anouk’s soul.
And best of all, she comes up with a satisfying conclusion, reuniting lost loves ó and not just Vianne and Roux, and painting a picture of a promising future for a remarkable little group of people.
Contact Deirdre Parker Smith at 704-797-4252 or dp1@salisbury post.com.
Brady Authorís Symposium
Tickets to see Joanne Harris at Catawba College on Thursday are still available. Cost for the 11 a.m. lecture is $15. You may call 704-637-4393 or buy on the day of the event.
The talk will be in Keppel Auditorium at Catawba.