Bethany's Reviews > Chocolat

Chocolat by Joanne Harris
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it was ok

Let me start this review by saying I have never seen the film version of Chocolat. Therefore, I started reading this with no preconceived notions. (Well, no more than usual, anyway.)

I liked Chocolat but there were several glaring annoyances that ruined it for me.
I did not appreciate the "chocolate lovers vs. churchgoers" plot. Casting a priest in the role of the villain irritated me. (I echo the others who say this is overdone.) Even so, I think the priest could have been redeemed. If only he had worked through his guilt and developed a good sense of humour and humility. But, nooo... that would never do. Because religious figures can never have true faith. *rolls eyes*

And the most unforgivable sin: I never really felt anything for the characters... No love or sympathy. Except maybe Guillaume. I liked him.

Also, the moral of this book seemed to be: "Indulge yourself! Do what feels right! (Even if you consequently die/get pregnant/shame yourself forever.)" Yeah. I'm not really digging that moral.

Yet, I could not dislike this book. It was strangely addicting. Reading it was like eating a confection you know is not very good when compared with something of a higher calibre, but you keep mindlessly eating it anyway though you're not sure why.

Oh! Which reminds me: Don't read this book if you're on a diet. I literally craved chocolate the entire time I was reading.
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Reading Progress

October 1, 2010 – Shelved
February 22, 2011 – Started Reading
February 23, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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Singing_shadow I am on a diet - it seems that 'food' for the soul can satisfy a rumbling stomach (I couldn't put it down and missed lunch :S).
I believe you could look at this book from another perspective: You said you couldn't feel anything for the characters, but this is mostly from the perspective of Vianne, a woman who can't get that emotionally attached when she's moving from town to town. Reynaud, on the other hand thinks himself intelectually superior to his flock ("my superior intelect only points out their many weaknesses"). Vianne is an on-the-spot woman, she cares for people but is hard and there are a few people who really get to know her - Anouk, Roux, Armande.

As for the priest/religion thing, do you know about the Inquisition? Witches and christians don't have a nice cozy past, and for as long as the existence of a real witch can be proven to the world, what they did is an act of fear and fanaticism. Add to this the fact that Vianne blames priests for her mother's depression.

I don't think that the idea of the book is "Indulge yourself! Do what feels right! (Even if you consequently die/get pregnant/shame yourself forever.)", it simply shows the opposition between two lifestyles. People fear, they fear the cold, they fear the wild, they fear the night, they fear solace. Some of them deal with their fears by banding together in a social symbiosis and creating villages, cities that come with rules, enforcers and ethics - not morals, but ethics - and this way, they sacrifice some of their freedom.
Other people fear losing their freedom most. Houses of stone that keep the danger outside for us, for them are cages that keep them inside. People like Roux and Anouk would interact on a strictly necessary basis to get things they need.
This book, I believe, is mostly about this opposition: the priest comes with rules - she believes that every problem needs a personal touch.
It's like yin and yang - to apparently opposite things balance each other.
You wouldn't know 'beautiful' if it weren't for the 'ugly', to compare it with, and that too is a matter of taste, because some see the face, and some, the soul.
What say you?


Bethany Well, this chocolate-loving girl was not so lucky. ;)
Thank you very much for your comment and thoughts; I'm not sure I can give them justice in my reply but I will try.

I appreciate your insights on Vianne and I can see where she's coming from, but that still doesn't make me love her anymore. One thing that really irked me about her was the fact she slept with Roux even though she knew he and her friend were interested in each other. That really bothered me.
And I am indeed aware of the Inquisition and the things that have been done wrongfully under the canopy of Christian religion.

I like your thoughts on what the book is about, but I did not get those feelings from reading it. That's not to say that's not what the book is about, I personally just didn't see it. I still think there was an insane amount of indulgence contained within its pages.

Overall, this book and its characters just weren't for me and there is really nothing that can change that...


Mina Soare Thanks for your answer. I guess if books too can be 'art', thus partly an expression of emotions - it is very much relative to the reader and his particular perception.


Bethany It is indeed. Everything is so subjective, I've found. :)


message 5: by Marie (new)

Marie Hill With the chocolate itself, how did she make a profit, or keep her shop going at least if she produced the chocolate with raw materials or whatever it said about grating it etc, and always giving every customer every sunday chocolate on the house?


message 6: by Kate (new) - rated it 1 star

Kate Elizabeth This review is just perfect, except that I truly disliked the book and I had zero qualms about that. Otherwise, thank you for voicing exactly what I thought, and ditto on Guillaume. His relationship with Charly was my favorite part of the book.


Bethany Marie wrote: "With the chocolate itself, how did she make a profit, or keep her shop going at least if she produced the chocolate with raw materials or whatever it said about grating it etc, and always giving ev..."

I know this is an old comment, but I don't think I ever saw it! Pardonne-moi! That's a good point, haha. It does make me wonder...


Bethany Kate wrote: "This review is just perfect, except that I truly disliked the book and I had zero qualms about that. Otherwise, thank you for voicing exactly what I thought, and ditto on Guillaume. His relationshi..."

Hehe, well, thanks for the comment! I'm always glad to bond with someone over mutual dislike/hatred. ;)


Theresa Chen After having read the book, did you watch the movie? You might like the movie more since its ending wasn't so much a "one side is victor over the other" but rather a "everyone comes together" sort of story.

I watched the movie first and it is one of my favorites. Caution... if you craved chocolate from the book the movie does that to you ever more.


Bethany Theresa wrote: "After having read the book, did you watch the movie? You might like the movie more since its ending wasn't so much a "one side is victor over the other" but rather a "everyone comes together" sort ..."

I did not! I rarely get around to watching movies for some reason. But that's interesting and good to know! I may have to watch it, but I'm definitely going to make sure to have a supply of chocolate on hand. :)


Shelley I can feel your conflicting feelings coming out of your review! I was not bothered by chocolate lovers vs. churchgoer since I am a churchgoer and did not feel the book was not accurately representative of catholics at all. However, I do agree, the book is definitely about indulgences. I would say that's a main theme for sure. You should actually try the movie though if you think the part with the priest is over done. That character becomes much more redeemable in the movie. I like the book better, but the movie had a better ending in many different ways. Very interesting review.


Shelley Also, my whole book club would agree with you about Vianne sleeping with Roux. Tsk Tsk. She is not as good of a friend as she pretends to be. But that's neither here nor there. In my review, I believe both main characters Reynaud and Vianne are flawed. But I believe that Vianne won out in the ending because she reaches back and offers comfort, advice or help whereas I felt like Reynaud just listened but didn't really reach out to his Parishioners to help them with their problems. Maybe he didn't see that as part of his job? But I think that's why it's a flaw.


message 13: by Matej (last edited Jan 04, 2019 08:15AM) (new)

Matej Maric To be quite honest,this just proves the point of how Closed minded people are,They dont know how to feel and think with their hearts.Sad,truly sad to see this in the world.So called " ChurchGoers" are the ones that have fear of "Hell" the ones that follow the "Order" which enslaved us from the very first beginning.As matter a fact those are the people that judge the most,those are the people that go in the church listening to some"Words of God" then coming home talking how others are wrong for not following the "Rules" that are forced upon humanity.
You didnt Feel sympathy for any of the Characters,and that's even more sad,to see that today in this mad world we have more and more "Rule Followers" that think they are worshipping some "God" by doing what they have been told to do,by doing everything you taught is "Right" .So yes you should Live the life of your dreams,you should follow your passions,you should go against the rules,because the rules were never made to make you a better human,a better and more loving soul,but to keep you from the truth of who you truly are,of who we truly are.This Movie is exactly what everyone should watch with their open Hearts,to finally stand and fight for what you believe in for what you truly love,to finally end the Slavery,Control,Manipulation and Fear of this poor and torchered Humanity.ONLY LOVE AND LIGHT I HAVE FOR ALL,I INTEND TO BRING HEAVEN ON EARTH,I INTEND TO LOVE ALL AND EXCLUDE NONE.There is a better 'World' waiting for us out there,it is up to us to look deep inside.There are no answers from external source,and definitely not from the SO called "Messangers of God".Stop listening to others,dig deep within yourself and truth will start to reaveal itself,the magic will be present in front of your eyes,for the first time in your life,you will see that everything is nothing as it seems.


Shelley Matej I think your comment definitely goes beyond a book review ha ha ha! It’s just a silly book, no need to read that much into it. Also the “churchgoers” in this book are NOT. In fact didn’t you get the feel from the book that these people were set in the past?! When I first read the book I actually didn’t realize it was set in modern times until I read the part about the car. It felt like this little town was set in the early 1900. Maybe 1920s-1940s or something. What an interesting discussion this book sparked!


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