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4.4 out of 5 stars
144
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 22 December 2015
I thought this was better than Chocolat. The plot is complex, with lots of unexpected twists and turns, the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional, and the writing is - as always from Joanne Harris - moving, rich and atmospheric. Her trademark themes are all here: rural France, food, relationships between mothers and daughters. A little saccharine in places, and the ending is a little too tidy, but even so, any book by JH is better than the entire "women's fiction" genre put together.

PS - As an object, the hardback edition is, like all JH hardbacks, a very beautiful little book.
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on 7 April 2017
I loved the way the book kept you waiting to find out what was going on with the mother. It was a sad tale of tough love and a tough time during the war. I felt for the children , their mother showed no love, a hard lady with her own mental health issues. A good insight to village life in France during the war.
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on 3 August 2017
A book that grabs you. Easy to read. A great journey into French food and French life in a rural community
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on 5 June 2017
warm feel-good story
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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 7 June 2016
An excellent story; beautifully written, and gripping right up to the last page. Well worth reading.
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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 30 September 2015
Excellent. Multilayered. I thought the insights into the child's mind, intelligence, and mismatch of emotional needs, suppressed feelings was beautifully described. As the child of a dysfunctional damaged mother, and mother myself it was poignant and thought-provoking.
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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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