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4.4 out of 5 stars138
4.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 7 January 2003
'Five quarters of the orange' is a story of a childhood tragedy in wartime France, and the shadows it casts across the later life of the heroine Framboise Dartigen. Written so blandly the book appears dark and gloomy, but this is far from the case.
Wartime France is portrayed through the eyes of the nine year old Framboise who's unworldly insight into the German occupation is in sharp contrast to the more familiar resistance-focused found in history books. She lives a life of fishing and adventure against the backdrop of her mother's kitchen – a place of wonderful cuisine brought to life with great skill. What tragedy turns her into the lonely old women that she becomes is kept well concealed until late in the story, providing a suspense that forced me to keep turning pages to find the answer.
The nuance of the recipes that form a large feature of the book were lost on me, but I'm sure will appeal to those who know their kitchen better. For those, like me, who prefer a compelling and human story this novel is sure to deliver. A book to be savoured!
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on 2 March 2007
I won't write about the storyline as there are enough reviews on here to satisfy anyone.

In my opinion this is simply the best book JH has ever written and I have read them all. It is thoroughly brilliant from beginning to end and it sits handsomely in my top 3 all time favourite books.
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on 6 April 2001
This book is a must for all Joanne Harris fans. It is better than 'Blackberry Wine', better even than 'Chocolat'.
It will also come as a surprise to 'Chocolat' fans, who, like me, might open it up expecting another sugary-sweet charming village comedy. The novel begins in a similar manner, with Framboise, now an elderly woman, settling into a French village, her old hometown. But throughout the text are scattered seeds of unease and doubt, and as the narrative slowly unravels, the reader becomes aware that she is hiding her identity and an ugly past.
The story very cleverly intercuts between Framboise as an elderly lady, around 60, and as a child of 9 in wartime France. It is the childhood memories which become the most intriguing - Harris brilliantly captures the difficulties of childhood - 'the cruelty of childhood' - and the poignant way her relationship with her mother disintegrates into hate and destruction. As a contrast to this is a love-crush she develops on a German soldier, which becomes incredibly touching. It was a stroke of genius that Harris explores this with a heroine who is only 9 - caught awkwardly between childhood and adolsecense, uncertain of what her emotions are, unable to label her feelings as love, or to know whether she loves him as a man, a father-figure, a friend, an idol, or a mixture of them all.
I won't say anymore or it will spoil the book and the surprises it throws at you, but the narrative slowly sucks you (rather like the victims claimed by old Mother in the river) into deeper, darker and muddier waters, resulting in violence, death and tragedy. Even the redemptive ending cannot really take away the bitter taste in your mouth at the end...but nevertheless, a brilliant book.
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on 30 April 2007
This was the 1st Joanne Harris book, and I have to say I was absolutely addicted to her books. Have read all her books, and this one is even better than Blackberry Wine or Chcocolate. The word that comes to my mind to describe this book is "magical". Joanne Harris is a wonderful writer, at a point I could swear I almost felt the scent of that orange...

I can't wait for her next two books, due to next month and August!
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on 4 May 2002
I was introduced to Joanne Harris through Blackberry Wine which I thought was a wonderful novel, the sort that didn't leave my hand until I'd finished it. Five Quarters is a different kind of book entirely. The writing is still wonderful (even if you can have too much of a good thing with all that syrupy, sticky, sensual food imagery. I hope that Harris and Nigella Lawson never collaborate on a book!) but the character are a truly awful bunch and while I could raise sympathy for some of them, I couldn't like any of them and was very glad to say goodbye at the end of the book. The story itself moves through its stages like the slow, lazy, ominous stirrings of 'Old Mother' in the depths of the Loire. Boise is certainly not like any nine year old I have ever encountered. The way she behaves seems much older. Many authors stumble over portraying children with the correct nuances and psychology for their ages and Harris in my opinion definitely comes a cropper here. All that plotting and slyness with the orange peel smacks of adult subterfuge beyond the capability of a nine year old girl, even one mature enough to menstruate (very precocious indeed, especially 60 years ago and one of the elements that had me trying too hard to suspend my reader disbelief)
This is a disquieting, claustrophobic novel and although the ending is redemptive, the whole definitely left a nasty taste in the mouth of this reader!
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on 13 April 2007
On page one we discover that Framboise is left it seems with the lesser part of an unequal inheritance which actually proves to be the greater. That is the beginning of a story which is melded successfully between present day and wartime France. Romantic - yes. Soppy - no. It is difficult not to be impressed by the story which engages beautifully and patiently together a delicious recipe. The taste of an impregnable home that could never burn down. The smell of a river that flashes puddles in the sun and crashes like thunder in the storm. A mood that is scattered in the trees which is etched in broken country paths. As sharp and sweet as an orange.
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on 24 November 2002
Five Quarters of an Orange is a compelling story about love and betrayal set in waartime and contemporary France. The split timescale between past and present is skilfully interwoven, as an elderly lady reflects on her wartime experiences as a wild nine year old girl.
The author, Joanne Harris, drew inspiration for the book from her family and their experiences in occupied France. This shows to great effect in her brilliant evocation of a small community which becomes divided in their reaction to the German occupiers. The results of these divisions are witnessed in all their cruelties by Framboise as a young girl and again involuntarily as an old woman.
The author sets the scene with lyrical descriptions of the River Loire, which provides the backdrop for the most intense passages of the novel. I particularly like the brooding menace of the 'Old Mother', which runs through the book like the river itself. There is a real rhythm to this novel fuelled by ambrosial prose and the author's distinctive descriptions of French food and drink.
Harris has said she bases her characters on people she knows or has been told about. She must know some remarkable people if the character of Framboise does not come solely from her imagination. As a passionate young girl and an embittered old woman, her story is dramatically told. If you are looking for an exciting, vibrant book to read in the winter evenings then this is the book for you.
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on 14 June 2013
Even before I opened the book I was seduced by the cover: various homely cooking implements hanging from string and nails as though in a rustic kitchen..and along side them is a hand grenade and a gun-cartridge. This is a dark tale of broken promises, betrayals and threats, a treacherous river snaking by. Yet it includes the orchard, bees humming drowsily in dappled sunlight, gnarly trees dripping with fragrant fruit all oozing and plump and glossy . The stage is set from the first page: the narrator is an older lady Framboise, now a widow, returning in secret to the village of Les Laveuses beside the Loire to buy back her former home, which she'd had to leave in a hurry years before. She sets up a café and creates succulent and mouth-watering dishes which entrance the older locals, and enmeshes them one by one into her back-story. She knows who they are and what they did all those years ago. As she cooks from her mother's recipe book, the familiar flavours, aromas, textures and colours transport her back to her childhood in the village. Framboise describes herself as a sullen and defiant 9 year old, but you can only feel sorry for her and her 2 siblings at first when you see how hard the daily chores are and how demanding and harsh her harassed mother is. Life is made all the more difficult by the arrival of the Germans, with all the compromises and antipathy that their invasion generates. As the Germans settle in and demand changes, tensions in the market square, the café and Framboise's home are gradually ratcheted up. Secrets abound and innocence is ultimately betrayed. The role of the orange is destructive and devisive. What a delicious read!
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VINE VOICEon 20 April 2009
I am head over heels in love with this book. Only a terrific author can write about something as appalling as war and occupation and uneccesary death but yet make you feel so alive and carefree whilste reading it. The prose was as mouthwatering, succulent and juicy as the food in the book and I wanted to be there! Yes, I wanted to run down to the Loire and swim and splash and yell and hang upsidedown from trees overhanging the river and race through sun-soaked fields and pick fruit in the orchards. I wanted to sneak off on the back of bike to the nearest village to watch a film in the cinema unbeknown to my mother, I wanted to set traps in the Loire and catch fish and I wanted to go to market on a Thursday morning and sell home-made pastries. And all this under German occupation. Only a talented author can make you feel like that while telling the story of something far more sinister.

This is a book about an old woman who comes back to the village of her childhood, but can't allow the villagers to find out who she really is. Aged nine Framboise and her family has to make a hasty exit from Les Laveuses and now she can't allow them to know the truth of who she really is and also what really happnened back in 1942. The book is as sumptuous as it is teasing with bits of information that allows the reader to peice all the fragments together over the course of the story and lead us to the final catastrophic moments.

I adored this book; it was ripe, tangy and a feast for the senses. I want to read it all over again. But if not, it has made me hungry and now I need to go and raid the fridge.........
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on 30 July 2008
Another engrossing read from Joanne Harris which although similar to `Chocolat `and `Blackberry Wine' it is a much darker story. Once again set in France this time a small village `Les Laveuses' near Angers on the banks of the Loire, during WWII and the present day.
The protagonist is Framboise Dartigen who has returned to the village after a long absence to live in the farmhouse of her childhood. Her mother Mirabelle Dartigen has since died and part of Framboise's inheritance was an album of memories and recipes. It is through studying this album that her memories of her childhood start to haunt her. Framboise has invented a new identity for herself, as she knows the villagers would look on her with contempt if they knew whose daughter she was. She uses her mother's recipes from the album in her restaurant which helps to make it the success it is. The consequent interference of her jealous and scheming nephew and his wife threaten to expose her true identity. However there is already one village friend from her childhood who guessed immediately who she really was and it with his help that she prevents this happening and unravels the mysteries that drove her family to leave the village during the Second World War. Putting the tragedies of the past behind her Framboise is finally able to look forward to a happy future, now she is no longer resisting the truths discovered in her mother's album.
As with all Joanne Harris's novels that I have read I highly recommend this one.
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