Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Lollipop Shoes

The Lollipop Shoes is the second in what is now a bit of a series by Joanne Harris. Five years have passed since Chocolat, the story of Vianne Rocher the chocolatier who, with her six-year-old daughter, Anouk, blows into the stuffy little village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and opens her chocolate shop at just the wrong time – and in just the wrong place – incurring the wrath of the local priest and pitting Church against Chocolate.

Since then, things have changed. We find Vianne in a subdued mood, she no longer wants to blow along on the feckless breeze; she now wants to settle down, to conform.  The wind has always dictated Vianne's every move, buffeting her from the French village to the crowded streets of Paris. Cloaked in a new identity, that of widow Yanne Charbonneau, she opens a chocolaterie she rents courtesy of their brash, rich landlord Thierry. She lives above the drab chocolate shop, determined to still the wind at last and keep her daughters, Rosette soon to be four, and Anouk (eleven and now called Annie) who has started secondary school, safe.
On the surface, life seems good; Vianne has finally found a niche for herself. Life seems peaceful. She is accepted within the community. She has learnt to conform; to blend in. She no longer makes her own chocolates and now orders her stock, just like everyone else and is seemingly content to sell the confectionary of others.
But security has a high price, and Vianne has made some heavy sacrifices. She has given up her mother’s ways; the magic that she and her daughters shared, her identity and even making her own chocolates – the demands of motherhood are just too much. Most importantly, she has given up true love – in the person of Rosette’s father, Roux – and is considering marriage to her reassuringly conventional landlord Thierry, who promises her financial security and a home for her children. Thierry is bemused by Vianne’s technophobia (she doesn’t know how to use a cell phone) and her youngest daughter, Rosette, who has yet to talk and has both physical and behavioural problems. She also has uncanny and disturbing Accidents…. Anouk, a misfit and loner at school and is having some trouble setting in, she hates Paris, resents the “new” Vianne, and desperately misses the intimacy they once had together. Thierry is besotted with the poor "widow" and wants to take this seemingly weak clutch of females under his broad masculine wing.
The wind has stopped blowing – for a while.
But the wind will always catch you when you least expect it… 

Into their lives enters Zozie de l’Alba, on the Day of the Dead, the woman with the lollipop shoes, to shake up their world. A free spirit with magical powers and an appetite for other peoples’ lives, a witch and a stealer of identities, whose methods are as likely to employ the internet as a crystal ball to find what she needs. Unlike Vianne, Zozie developed her magical powers without the guidance of a similarly empowered mother. She culled a "system" from the occult books in her ineffectual mother's New Age London bookshop. She is practical where Vianne is whimsical; greedy and independent where Vianne is domestic and tied to her children. Beautiful, passionate, bohemian and fabulously indifferent to convention, Zozie befriends Anouk, moves into the shop, seduces half the neighbourhood with her effortless charm. But Zozie is not without an agenda. Little by little her influence grows - over Vianne, the customers, but most of all over Anouk, who sees in her an echo of her own mother, without all the fears that inhibit her.  little by little, helps Vianne regain, not only her skills, but her life.
And as Christmas approaches and Zozie’s “help” becomes increasingly more questionable, it becomes clear that behind the charismatic façade there hides a cold and malevolent being, her power immense; her greed insatiable; her ultimate goal – Possession.
Vianne was finally forced to confront both her enemy and her fears. She is terrified that their blooming supernatural abilities will put them in danger and set them apart from their peers. She accepts Thierry's ring. But Zozie wants even more from her than Thierry does. It is cold-hearted Zozie who encourages Anouk to explore the powers her mother suppresses and tempts Vianne back into making her own irresistible chocolates.
A postcard suggests that one of Vianne’s old loves may soon be on the scene. Vianne is battling something more insidious than just an institution. She’s struggling with herself; her past; her guilty secrets and small betrayals. Most of all she’s fighting her worst fears – in the face of which we are all alone.…  But will it be Vianne or Anouk who is carried off by the wind at the end? 

The book is written in three narratives, that of Zozie, Anouk and Vianne

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