Remember Chocolat’s free spirit chocolatier Vianne Rocher? Well, Peaches for Father Francis is the third book Ms. Harris has written with Vianne as the main character (The Girl with no Shadow is #2). Not surprisingly, the wind is changing again for Vianne Rocher.
That wind and a cryptic letter from a dead woman lure Vianne back to the little village of Lansquenet, to jump right back into the middle of everyone’s lives. But her reception is often puzzling to her. The people needing her help are not always who she expects to help, and the story becomes as much about Vianne understanding what the concept of Home means for herself as what Home and community mean to those who rooted themselves in the village.
Vianne is surprised to find a large and active Muslim community has replaced the “riverrats” as the Village’s outsider culture which reflect the changes actually occurring in France today with a growing Muslim population creating communities within communities. (In France, Islam is the second largest religious group after Catholicism.) Cultural and religious clashes abound but at the heart of the conflict is a universal clash that all of us can understand and unite against. There’s also a bit of a mystery running through the story, actually several small mysteries, that add to the suspense. How will it all turn out? Will Vianne figure out what she should do? Will she and Father Francis be on the same side this time or continue their sparring? Is Vianne herself still considered an outsider or has she become aligned with the villagers?
I found Peaches for Father Francis was one of those sly stories that seems simple but once the last page was turned, I realized I had been artfully brought along a complicated trail of twists and turns. It’s that kind of writing that brings me back to Joanne Harris every time.
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