Joanne Harris' sensational novel Five Quarters of the Orange
revolves around a recipe book, continuing the theme of culinary intrigue begun in Chocolat
and Blackberry Wine
. Framboise, the middle-aged narrator, begins her story in Les Laveuses, on the banks of the Loire:
When my mother died she left the farm to my brother, Cassis, the fortune in the wine cellar to my sister, Reine-Claude, and to me, the youngest, her album and a two-litre jar containing a single black Perigord truffle.
Framboise returns to the village where she grew up during wartime, and with the help of the recipes scribbled in her mother's album, opens up a small restaurant. However, she is desperate to keep her identity a secret even amongst the aged villagers with whom she played on the banks of the Loire in the years of German occupation during the Second World War. Framboise immerses herself once again in the peaceful rhythms of village life, pungently evoked by Harris's evocative prose. But slowly, reluctantly, Framboise begins to unravel the terrible wartime secret that drove her family away from the village. As she cuts between idyllic descriptions of the village and the increasingly dark memories of the war, Framboise admits:
I know, I know. You want me to get to the point. But this is at least as important as the rest, the method of telling, and the time taken to tell. It has taken me fifty-five to begin, at least let me do it in my own way.
This could be a description of Harris's prose itself, as it slowly and deliberately cuts between Framboise's fragile present and her happy childhood, destroyed by the tragic innocence of youth. Although Five Quarters of the Orange
finds Harris on familiar ground to Chocolat
, this is a much darker and compelling novel of childhood nostalgia and betrayal, and the need to confront the tragedies of the past before they destroy the possibilities of a happier future. --Jerry Brotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Her strongest writing yet: as tangy and sometimes bitter as Chocolat
was smooth (Independent
Outstanding ... beautifully written (Daily Mail
Joanne Harris a naturally sensuous writer, but her latest book has a dark core...Her descriptive and narrative talents are put to a profounder use...This gripping tale is bound to be made into a film. It's as vivid a journey through human cruelty and kindness as I've read this year (Daily Telegraph
Harris indulges her love of rich and mouthwatering descriptive passages, appealing to the senses ... Thoroughly enjoyable (Observer
Just as she did in Chocolat, Harris indulges her love of rich and mouth-watering descriptive passages, appealing to the senses with seductively foreign names, and evoking the textures and smells of food. These descriptions are suffused with a child's wide-eyed wonder that lends the story a magical quality, almost like a folk tale or a children's story. Even having the Occupation as a backdrop, Harris sets out to tell a story that proves, like her previous books, to be thoroughly enjoyable... (Guardian