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Five Quarters Of The Orange Paperback – 1 Jan 2002
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"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)
The magical new novel from the author of the Number One be Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake - but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie - and lets memory play strange games. Into this world comes the threat of revelation as Framboise's nephew - a profiteering Parisian - attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes she has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers of Les Laveuses. As the spilt blood of a tragic wartime childhood flows again, exposure beckons for Framboise, the widow with an invented past. Joanne Harris has looked behind the drawn shutters of occupied France to illuminate the pain, delight and loss of a life changed for ever by the uncertainties and betrayals of war.See all Product description
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PS - As an object, the hardback edition is, like all JH hardbacks, a very beautiful little book.
Five Quarters of the Orange is certainly one of those books you don't want to put down. It's a time-slip novel set in the late 90s and war-time, with the main protagonist, Framboise, narrating her own story and that of the mystery of a German soldier, Tomas. He comes into the lives of Framboise, and the other children of a French widow, for his own purposes, and this affects the people of the village where they live.
Coincidentally, the last book I read was Irene Nemirovsky's novel about Occupied France, and here we are again, in the same territory, but with a very different type of book.
Framboise (Raspberry) and her siblings all have fruit names, and she continues the practice giving her own children nutty names - Pistache and Noisette. (A bit overkill, I thought.) Framboise is a determined little girl who wants to win a battle with a pike; she's certainly feisty and clever and also has many battles with her mother, a hard, cold woman, damaged by the death of her husband. She also makes the mistake of falling for Tomas. The consequences of many of her actions are quite unforeseen.
Five Quarters is intricately plotted with little clues and signposts planted periodically along the route. I was propelled along, although I actually began to feel the tension pall as I started nearing the end. There were perhaps too many signposts, and some of the revelations came to me as a bit of an anti-climax.
In addition, I think that one problem for me was that I didn't care much for heroine, Framboise, who narrates her own story and takes you back to when she was nine years old - I certainly didn't like her as a child, and not really as the adult narrator either. As a child, she behaved cruelly to her mother, who suffered from regular, crippling migraines, and whose attacks were usually preceded by her scenting an orange smell. Framboise's cruelty - in obtaining an orange and putting the peel under her mother's pillow - seemed to me to be more sophisticated than I would have imagined a child of her age could behave; rather premature too was her crush on Tomas; at the same time, she was often naïve. So I didn't quite believe in her, nor could I believe that she was her mother's favourite. They were not, on the whole, a likeable family.
It sounds as if I am doing nothing but criticise, and I have to say that despite all the above, it was a good read, though maybe not a feel good book. I'm giving it 4 stars, but from a readability point of view, might increase it by a half.