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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 14 May 2018
Very thought provoking. I read the book in two days and am still thinking about it a few days down the line.I don't usually do reviews but I think this author is well worth reading and reviewing. I have been thinking about the children in occupied France and how believable it is that some may have said things about others in all innocence with tragic consequences. In this case the children seem to do so deliberately for various different gains and this is also believable too. I am going to read more books by Joanne Harris .
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on 30 December 2013
Five Quarters of the Orange

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.
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on 2 June 2018
I first read this book years ago and never forgot what it did to though I didn’t remember all of the story. Sometimes it’s difficult to read, but the emotion isn’t and held me spellbound just as before. Ms Harris is amazing.I’ making my way once more through all of her work.
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on 5 March 2015
Like all the books I've read by this author, a very well written book with quite a colourful insight into that dark period of the second world war, living in France at that time. The main character quite a cruel character, scary in one so young. As you read on you are led to see affects of the neglect of the mother on the all the children and the misunderstandings between all concerned, highlighting the era of mistrust and fear.
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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 18 August 2014
This has to be Joanne Harris's best book. An amazing achievement. She tells the tale from the eyes of a young child and the 65 year old woman she becomes. Wartime France is brought sharply to life. Misunderstandings secrets and lies are at the heart of the book and gradually the truth is revealed in Ms Harris's masterly storytelling style. I love all her books but this for me is her very best.
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on 10 May 2018
I enjoyed the book. Found it difficult to put down. Harris's writing style is quite distinctive. I would recommend this.
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on 7 May 2018
Rich description which draws you right into a french village on the Loire. With every chapter is the hook of secrets slowly unravelling. Gripping and satisfying.
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on 7 February 2015
I enjoyed the story, it is a real page turner! The children's view of occupied France is engaging and at times unsettling. The narrator is almost feral, but I did find it hard to really believe that a nine year old could be so calculating and divisive towards her own mother and siblings. You have to set the implausibility aside, especially as no one (bar one) in the village appears to recognise 'Boise when she returns.
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