The Strawberry Thief (Chocolat #4) by Joanne Harris

StrawberryOnce upon a time there was a book that thought it was a regular story, it wrapped itself up in strangeness and fantasy and grew into a remarkable tale, a fairytale to enchant readers.

The Strawberry Thief was a fantastic read.  I absolutely loved it in fact I didn’t want it to finish and I can say, that to those of you looking at this as No.4 in a series and thinking there’s a lot of catching up, well, I can tell you that you don’t have to have read the previous three books – although of course I would recommend them.  I think there would be no problem at all in reading this as a standalone and I heartily recommend this book. It’s just beautiful.  Do yourself a favour and read it.

What can I say.  Picking this book up just felt right.  Comfortable and comforting.  Gorgeous writing, evocative and mysterious.  In fact a story with a mystery at its core surrounded by a heady mix of magic and motherhood – and chocolate.  Don’t forget the chocolate.

As I write this I can genuinely say that I am full of emotion.  The writing in this book was just intoxicating and I could frankly read this again, right now.

Vianne Rocher is a mother with two daughters.  One has flown the nest finding love and is living in Paris.  The other, Rosette, is still to find her voice.

Vianne now seems to have an almost comfortable life in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes.  She has finally found acceptance and her chocolaterie is popular with the locals.  But things are afoot.  Her ‘special’ daughter, Rosette, has been left a piece of land, following the death of the local florist Narcisse.  Narcisse had developed a soft spot for Rosette and left her is little forest, where the wild strawberries grow.  Of course, as you may imagine this causes uproar.  Narcisse’s daughter is outraged, naturally expecting to be bequeathed the full estate she is convinced that something is hidden in the forest and determined to get her hands on the piece of land come what may.  On top of this, it seems that Narcisse has left a confession, a compelling story that that has been left in the care of Reynaud, the village priest.  And then, to top it all, the old florist shop has a new tenant – and it seems that this new tenant is going to cause as big a stir as Vianne herself did when she opened a chocolate shop on Lent.

I won’t talk further about the plot.  It manages to twist and turn in the most delicious fashion.  On the face of it this appears to be a mystery.  Was Narcisse hiding something in his strawberry forest, why did he leave the land to Rosette and what is contained in that tantalising confession.  Two stories running parallel and both rife with the tension lent to them by the way in which the confession keeps switching hands in the most unexpected fashion.  Then we have the mystery of Rosette and her missing voice, her invisible friend and her ‘shadow’ voice.  Then, the newcomer.  The people of the village are simply bewitched by her.  Vianne needs to fight magic with magic – both of them have a way of knowing what a person needs but maybe this village is too small for two such larger than life personalities.

The other thing, there is an absolutely beautiful poignancy here.  Underlying the magic and mystery is a tantalising story of letting go, of having difficult choices, of being a mother, raising a child with love and care but then acknowledging that your child is now an adult and must be allowed to fly the nest and choose a path.

To be honest, I’m going to keep this review fairly short – which is absolutely not a reflection on the novel in any way – I adored this book.  I loved it in fact – and it’s turned me into a big ball of emotion and greed.  I can’t in fact say it any clearer than this.  Buy this book, read it and then come and tell me what you think.  I finished this story with tears in my eyes.  I was happy-sad.  Happy to read such a good book that just overwhelmed me and sad because it was all over and I wanted more.  Ooh, the book hangover!  Would I recommend this book – oh yes, without a doubt.

I received a copy, through Netgalley,  courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.