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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2003
I have never done this reviewing thing before, but felt compelled to comment on this novel, which has thus far not received entirely favourable reviews. I found that the book, as has been mentioned, differed from her previous works, which cannot be an entirely negative characteristic. Previous reviewers have ranged from critcising the similarity of her works to criticising this book for not continuing the culinary lineage of works like 'The five Quarters of the Orange' or 'Chocolat'.
Harris has indeed shifted her literary narrative from the externalised heady evocations of smell and taste to a more internalised style, focusing through the perspective of the protagonist Mado. This shift in style is managed with the kind of ease and beautiful style readers of Harris' previous work have come to expect.
It is lucky that the publishers chose to put blank pages between the parts of this book, as otherwise my sleep patterns of the last three days would have been seriously affected! Harris writes with an amazing flow, which I did not feel to be broken by the French names, causing the pages to fly by as the reader is absorbed into the island world of le Devin.
Her narrative moves in swells and dips like those of the sea she depicts in this novel, and her artistic imagery is similar to Mado's brooding, thoughtful pictures. Her supporting cast is beautifully and lovingly portrayed, as are the surroundings, and, having finished the book, I feel as if I have recently returned from a visit to a small french island, and am eagerly awaiting my next voyage to Harris' France.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2003
Joanne Harris is fast becoming an archetypical writer. Coastlines is set in yet another French village, with sturdy local characters, such as a silent father and a flamboyant love interest. Village gossip, secrets & tragedies from the past its all in there. The bad part of the novel is the first half: you start to think you've read it all before, and the story is not yet gripping or convincing. The silent father is annoying, and the narrator is against-the-villager-for-their-own better a little too early. You wonder why she bothers with all this. Some dialogues seem a little forced.The good part is the second half when the plot starts to unravel. The story gains some speed, but most characters remain a little flat. The plot, however, is an excellent one.All in all, though this is a classical Harris, it is not her best. Characters (especially the narrator) are less convincing, the story is little too made up (fooling the villagers with a miracle is a little too much for 2003) and the setting somehow doesn't come alive as much as in her other novels. Harrris style remains fluent, easy too read and highly entertaining. If you're a fan -> a must have. If not, stick to "Oranges".
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2003
It is true that my full enjoyment of this novel was somewhat limited due to the fact that I originally bought a cheap copy from a second hand book shop and half way through found a printing error had substituted the middle three chapters for a repetition of the first three. I was not happy! However I believe it does say something for the story that I went straight out and bought a complete, full priced version to catch up on the parts that I had missed.
Coastliners is good. There is no doubt about that. The plot is strong as are the characters. Anyone who read the first few chapters would be compelled to read to the end. Joanne Harris' empathy with the town or village community is particularly moving in this story. She has a remarkable ability to portray a small, secure yet claustrophobic community, she does it so completely that by the end of the book, you could recognise each character if they were walking dwon the street. At the same time as drawing on caricature so well that you recognise immediately the type of person she means, yet she has a sensitivity that draws deeper so that the reader can identify with the character as an individual.
For my own reading of this novel, I do feel that in concentrating on twist and turns in the plot, and the differing relationships between the characters, Harris has lost something of the succulent imagery that has become her trade mark. Strong flavours enhance her earlier stories, sweets, sours, fruit and wine, natural flavours that work with instinct and overpower the senses. Chocolat, Blackberry Wine and Five Quarters of the Orange are a dazzling gastronomic feast, tastes and smells vivid. Coastliners leave you hungry.
While I really did enjoy Coastliners and I could not put it down till I had found out the destinies of each character, afterward I still found something lacking. I have always idenified with Harris weaving the physical pleasures, eating and drinking, smells and scents, together with the emotional turmoils of year to year life. Coastliners deals with the ups and downs of life, without weaving the heady imagery of her earlier books. For the time being, Blackberry Wine will remain my favourite Joanne Harris novel, the images and characters through that story stayed with me a long time and for me it is the most potent and appealing of her novels (though I do think that may have something to do with the fact that it is narrated by a bottle of wine!).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 3 November 2008
There is a structure to this novel which is reminiscent of that of "Chocolat", so you know how it will end: with a firm romantic uncertainty. That's part of the Harris charm.

The convolutions of the plot are also part of what attracts, as they were in her three previous novels.

Mado is a great heroine: independent, artistic and thoughtful. She is the sort of person the reader can identify with in a wish-fulfillment way.

The road to love is not smooth, and Flynn's possible parentage doesn't help, but he's a cool, uncommitted enigma who you wouldn't mind being tucked up with now and again.

Joanne Harris evokes a feeling of Frenchness which seems authentic to those with a nodding acquaintance with the people. She is one of the best creators of atmosphere in modern novels. They conjure an intimate, fresh and individual setting for each story; the reader is drawn into a feeling of familiarity with the main characters and places.

"Coastliners" tastes of the brine and wind of a Breton island. You can feel the insularity and are drawn into the geography of Le Devin.

Certain characteristics are reminiscent of village life in rural England which aids understanding of the way of life of the people and their attitudes.

A captivating story. Familial ties and treachery, a great setting and characters - Joanne Harris at her best.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2003
I hadn't been a Harris reader for very long when I read Coastliners. In fact, I'd only read Chocolat and it became my favourite book of all time. I loved the way Harris is able to make scents and sounds float out of the page. Her writing and beautiful descriptions are truly amazing and truly unique.
I firmly believed that there was no such book to rival Chocolat but in true style, Harris created a tale that I wouldn't have even dreamed about. Coastliners is that book. Harris is a master at her trade and it is confirmed in this book.
The story starts off very mysteriously, the story is slow and it makes you wonder why the plot hasn't become apparent but the start etches the picture of the island. Once the story begins to race, you want it to slow down so that you can enjoy the wonderful flavour of the story. She tells the story with a style that is all her own.
The story is great, the descriptions are unparalled and most of all, the plot is amazing! Brilliant read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2003
I have adored all of Joanne Harris' books so far, and felt no different about this one. Whilst some have accused Joanne of becoming formulaic, I love the fact that all of her tales retain that sense of mystery, of wrapping you up warm and taking you completely into the story. Her characters are colourful and believable, the plots keep you interested and I have never known an author who can take you draw you into the world that she describes so clearly.
Another fantastic read from Joanne Harris.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2012
A young woman returns after her mother's illness and death to the island of her birth. The island is off the French coast, tiny and idiosyncratic; the environment and economy is finely balanced and at the mercy of nature. The setting is typical of rural communities that we all know; how best to move with the times and survive in the modern world, but without ruining those aspects of life that make it so special. Throw into the cooking-pot a wealth of interesting, complex and often frustrating personalities, add an attractive stranger who the islanders accept as their own, plus rivalries and family rifts, and the stage is set for a lovely read. The book starts slowly but builds up to a roller-coaster ending with unexpected and rewarding twists and turns. Other reviewers have compared this novel with the author's other books (eg Chocolat and Blackberry Wine) but I would say to you to just read it and enjoy it on its own merit.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2004
After falling in love with Chocolat and feeling dissapointed with Blackberry Wine, I was slightly dubious about Coastliners. After reading the first two chapters I was immediately drawn into the wonderful plot and close nik Island life, and read the book in three days!Maybe not as delicious as Chocolat but still a must read!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 5 January 2003
I've read that the stories have become formulaic. I actually thought that this was a little different. There was no food (apart from a few contraband lobster) in this. The odd dash of wild garlic maybe but the story did not have the taste of the others. But I enjoyed it. Despite the odd ending. The passion of the sea, the eccentricities of the villagers, the fervent hope against despair and apathy were caught in technicolor. JH has an astute eye for observing the foibles of human nature.
My only hope is that she doesn't feel that she to stop ending her stories with the deliciously frustrating ambiguity of Chocolat and Five Quarters of an Orange.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2003
Yet another wonderful book from the pen of Joanne Harris. I am a somewhat reluctant reader; it takes me forever to get into a new author, but I have yet to be disappointed by her. This book evokes a genuinely sympathetic view of rural Breton island life. My family has had a home near this area for over 30 years, and she has perfectly captured the essence of a fishing community struggling to exist alongside an increasingly modern world. You can practically taste the sea as you are drawn further into the tale. I am a huge fan of her books now and eagerly await future books.
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