Chocolat by Joanne Harris

I had always thought that I would like to read this book and I vaguely remember enjoying the movie. So when I saw this book at the Sydney Book Fair I jumped at the chance to purchase it and I wasn't disappointed.

To be honest, when I first started reading it I wasn't sure how I felt about the style of writing. I'm sure you've heard me mention it before, but sometimes I can find the style of writing to be a barrier between me and the story, and I thought that this might be the case with this book. As it turns out, I'm glad that I persevered because I got used to its unusual style.

The story begins with some new arrivals in a small french town; Vianne, her daughter Anouk and her daughter's imaginary rabbit Pantouffle. Vianne opens a chocolate shop and slowly uses her chocolate and her own brand of magic to open the minds and hearts of the villagers. She cannot, however, open the mind or the heart of the village priest, who sees Vianne as an enemy; not just an enemy to himself and the townspeople, but to Christianity itself. He attempts to force her to leave town and in doing so comes face to face with his own weaknesses.

What i really liked about this story is told, is that it is narrated in first person from both Vianne's and the priest's perspectives. The two characters are set up as enemies, one represents good (Vianne) and the other evil (the priest). What I thought was clever that it was not always immediately apparent from the style of writing who's perspective the chapter was from. Sometimes I found that it was the content of the chapter that gave it away. I could be making this all up, but I think it may have been deliberately done. I think it's a clever way of perhaps saying to the reader that although there is this dynamic of good and evil set up between the two, sometimes good and evil are not that far removed from each other, but that it is a matter of perspective. I would be interested to know if anyone else who has read this book thinks something similar.
This is a good book if you are looking for an easy but magical read.

Star Rating

5 / 8

Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

Anne's House of Dreams by LM Montgomery

Another one of the Anne of Green Gables series. Anne has finally married Gilbert and they are living in their first home together, their 'house of dreams'.

Anne is an adult now, a true housewife, loving life, her home and her new friends. Gilbert is now a doctor. He looks after the people of their town, and loves Anne dearly. In this book, they have their first fight, make new friends and have two children, although there isn't a happy ending for both children.

I felt a little like in this book you started to lose the story of Anne and see more of the stories of others that Anne has befriended. I sort of started to really miss the tension of wondering whether Anne and Gilbert would end up together. I feel a bit bad to say that now they are together, I am beginning to lose some interest in the series, but it is sweet and I will read the rest of the series.

Star Rating

5 / 8

Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox

Now this I can definitely say is one of the best reads I have had for a long time!

I bought this book at the Sydney Book Fair after having a read a review of its sequal in the Sydney Morning Herald. I thought that it sounded different to most books; dark and medieval, and that is how it was.

It follows the story of Sobran Jordeau, a vintner in early 19th Century France. One night in 1808, Sobran meets an angel, and there begins a relationship that spans for years, until the end of Sobran's life. Each year they meet each other on the anniversary of their first meeting, until that one yealy meeting is no longer enough for either of them. In the meantime, Sobran's life continues, we see him marry, survive the Napoleonic wars, have a family, take lovers and improve his vintages. His feelings for the angel invade every aspect of his life.

The story is dark and violent at time. There is a sexual undercurrent throughout the book, unerlying Sobran's relationship with his wife, lover and also the angel himself. It is also there in the story of the countryside girls who are brutally raped and murdered at the hands of someone in their community. The story has a complex and rich storyline, full of secrets and desires.

At the beginning of the book I wasn't sure that I really liked Sobran Jordeau. He was so young and selfish and reckless. There were times in fact where I wondered if he wasnt a bit dangerous. As he aged and matured, however, I came to understand him better; I believe that I had a better understanding of his motivations and desires. Xas, the angel, was a lot harder to come to know, but I think that given he is an angel the reader perhaps isn't supposed to fully understand him. He is a creature of God (the devil?) and therefore to some extent above understanding.

I won't spoil the story too much with this review, in fact, reading over I dont think I've really given anything significant away at all. I really want people to read this, especially if you're looking for something different to read. I would be really interested to know what someone religious thought of the concept in this book, particularly relating to Xas and his decscriptions of heaven and hell.

In looking for the picture to use for this post, I discovered that this book has been made into a movie that is being released in November 2009, and I am so excited about seeing it!

Please, if there is one book I have reviewed on this blog that I recommend you read, please make it The Vintner's Luck!

Star Rating

8 / 8

One of the best books I have ever read. Everyone should read it - it is totally amazing. I am in love.

The Breaker by Kit Denton

I had heard of Breaker Morant as a historical figure before I read this book; I knew that he had something to do with the Boer War and that there was a movie about him. I also knew that The Breaker was an Aussie classic and so I thought that I would read it, although I admit that buy the time I read this book I was feeling a little over Australin literature having read so many classic Australian novels recently.

It was a very interesting book though; easy to read and very enjoyable. It follows the story of 'Breaker' Morant. The book starts at the beginning of his new life as a worker in outback in Australia, where he makes friends with Paddy whom he works with for a few years to come. Eventually, with the outbreak of war, he decides to join the army and go to South Africa to fight the Boer on behalf of England. He feels compelled to do so because of his family history with the armed forces and the time he previously spent in the military in England before he was disgraced and came to Australia to escape his humiliation. The book then follows Morant throughout his war participation and eventually the trial that sees him and some of his fellows executed at the end of the book.

Breaker Morant is an interesting character as depicted in this fictionalisation of him. He is so stubborn and internal. Sometimes I had trouble understanding him, although I think that this difficulty came down to difference in time and sex. Im sure if I were a male from that time I would understand him completely, but to me sometimes he just felt like a bit whimp, someone who ran away from his troubles and then made life more difficult for himself than it needed to be through pride.

It as also a valuable history lesson. I have no trouble believing that Breaker Morant did nothing differently to how other soldiers behaved during the war. He and his fellows simply became the scapegoats for an English government that realised the war was not going well and needed something to distract the public from their failures. Breaker Morant and the others were this distraction, and they paid for it with their lives.

It was definitely a good read, particularly if you liek historical fiction and you want to make more of an effort to read Australian literary works. Still, it wasn't the mostgripping read, but I would recommend it nonetheless.

Star Rating

5 / 8

Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.