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The Discovery of Chocolate: A Novel [Paperback]

James Runcie
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

21 April 2010

A wonderfully inventive and entertaining journey through time and the history of chocolate!

The Discovery of Chocolate is a fabulous tale, as rich and exotic as the gorgeous creation that Diego de Godoy first discovers when he arrives in Mexico with Cortes and his conquistadors.

Diego is seeking his fortune in the New World. What he finds is love, and chocolate, and an elixir of life. Separated from his lover, he must wander the world, and the centuries, in search of the fulfilment that he first knew in Mexico.

In a series of dramatic episodes that are evocative, witty and thought-provoking, from revolutionary Paris to Freud’s Vienna, Fry’s Bristol and Hershey’s Pittsburgh, Diego and his ever-faithful greyhound, Pedro, seek the perfection of chocolate and the meaning of life.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; (Reissue) edition (21 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007107838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007107834
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 133,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

What delicious ingredients James Runcie has blended together in his first novel, The Discovery OF Chocolate--a picaresque, time-travelling journey of self-discovery. Told by the Spaniard, Diego de Godoy, accompanied by his faithful greyhound Pedro, Diego wanders the world, like Don Quixote bereft of his Dulcinea, in search of his beloved Ignacia--and the perfect chocolate.

In 1518 the 20-year-old Diego leaves Seville bound for Mexico where he joins Cortes's conquistadors and falls in love with the beautiful Ignacia. When Diego is ordered back to Spain, Ignacia gives him a parting gift: a chocolate drink, the elixir of life, and the promise that "If you are alive, then I am alive. Never cease in your search for me." But, returning to Mexico, he finds only her grave and so begins his wanderings, sometimes dictated by the forces of history, sometimes by his own whims. Through "an eternity of travel", he and Pedro reach Chiapas, the city of Ignacia's birth, where he discovers that time has slipped by a century.

Full of incident made more piquant by the introduction of significant figures along the way, Diego soon finds himself locked in the Bastille. It's 1788 and he swaps chocolate recipes with the Marquis de Sade. Then on to Vienna to create sachertorte. Fervent with questions, yet filled with despair about life's meaning, he begins his weekly visits to Freud. And all the while, his droll scrapes punctuate his slightly overdone gloom. On board ship to America, Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas solace him with talk of love and food. The early 1900s find him once more in Mexico, a man old in wisdom, but still virile in his ways.

Runcie's novel is a charming addition to the hunger for chocolate in all literary forms. This is storytelling whisked into a pleasurable mix but perhaps offers more instant gratification than lingering after-taste. --Ruth Petrie --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘The Discovery of Chocolate is as intoxicating and addictive as the substance it describes. The novel is a triumph of inspired imagination…’
Financial Times

‘The Discovery of Chocolate is a sensual delight which does not take itself too seriously and leaves a lingering sweetness in its wake. More books should be like this; elegantly written, unpretentious and unashamed fun.’
Joanne Harris, The Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nancy talks Chocolate! 11 Dec 2001
By A Customer
When I sat down to read this book on my train journey to London, I realised that this was no ordinary story. For starters, it involves a man and his dog travelling through time. But don't get too cynical before you read it; i can assure you there are no time machines in this book, oh no. The whole thing is very tasteful and gradual process, with love, loyalty, death and the meaning of life held close to the very heart of the book. The hero, Diego De Godoy, Notary Emperor to Charles 1st, falls in love with an Aztec women named Ignacia while travelling with the conquistadors to conquer Spain. While there, he and his dog accidentally drink the elixier of life, a kind of chocolate drink. Chocolate also plays an important role throughout the book, as you may guess by the title, and although the leading character remans defiantly heterosexual and there is a bit too muh death, depression and generall Why??? factor, this is overall a wonderful light read with charming cameo appearances from famous historical characters such as Sigmund Freud. It contains a few illicit sex scenes which some of the intended audience would cringe at, but overall i believe this book will make you laugh, cry, want to read more like it and never put it down. It is a lovely read for a journey and is easy in one sitting. I have also heard the the writer's unrelated second book will be out to buy next year, based on the theme of the colour blue. I hope that you enjoy reading this book, as I certainly did.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars delicious 11 Feb 2003
This book lures you in with the promise of chocolate and a fantastic sumptious red and gold cover. The premise is a man blessed with an extended life after partaking of a chocolate elixir. We follow him and his faithful hound as he searches for the woman he loved, and for meaning in his life. At what price longevity and what use can you make of it? As he moves through the times, he encounters various famous people; Montezuma, Dr. Freud, Mr. Fry and manages to single-handedly invent all the chocolate delights we know today.
It is not a big book, or a long read, but it is an absorbing story, which is well told
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars delish!! 11 Mar 2003
When a book has so much influence on a girl that she starts copying the recepies, she NEEDS to let people know!!
This is a remarkable story about a Portugese adventurer that travels to Mexico in the 14th century. There he meets the woman of his life: she makes chocolate. He has to go back to Portugal to his fianceé, but he and his Mexican lover drink a potion she prepared. Although he has no idea what the potion does, he is determined to return to Mexico and find the woman he loves. A remarkable and remarkably believable story unwinds through time, love and desire for chocolate. Believe me, I'm not the kind to read these sci-fi-ish books, but this hit me like a bar of Cadbury's! Enjoy the book- then enjoy making the chocolate recepies yourself. Keep a bottle of clearasil at hand!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seductive, romantic panorama gives good chocolate 22 April 2001
By A Customer
This book looks luscious - stunning red and gold cover - and is pretty rich - a panoramic journey through time, different countries, different lives; a philosophical understanding of the pointlessness of immortality underscores the many relationships that the Spanish hero lives through. Runcie has a lot of fun with some of the famous names like the Marquis de Sade and Mr Fry of chocolate and blessed memory (though mercifully not at the same time). This book is warm, perceptive, sometimes funny, always real, and has one of the best dogs in fiction.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good story 30 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a story spanning several centuries - all about a man who discovers chocolate and love and how he develops the chocolate and re-finds his love. Try Runcie's other book 'The Colour of Heaven' which is also good.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The discovery of chocolate 24 Nov 2013
By Clare O'Beara TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
This book started off well but I felt didn't continue quite so well. However it's an original idea with interesting characters and settings.
A young Spaniard is taking part in the conquest of the Americas and falls in love with a local girl. She knows mysteries of the exotic chocolate drink and other spices, and when battle breaks out around them she makes an esoteric drink which they both sip, and the small Spanish greyhound Pedro licks the bowl. Somehow this causes time travel after the couple are parted. The man and dog travel through time and lands following the path of chocolate as it is brought to new people or in new forms such as firm sweets. Some well-known characters appear, even the Marquis de Sade.
Eventually of course we want to know if the Spaniard and his lady will ever meet again and how long a dog can stay with his master. This is an enjoyable read which is full of detail - and chocolate - and is not intended to be taken too seriously.
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