Peaches for Father Francis - Joanne Harris
Released October 2012
Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth
I never read Chocolat, nor did I read the follow-up to that book, The Girl with No Shadow. I have, however, watched the movie Chocolat dozens of times, so I know the story well.
Peaches for Father Francis finds Vianne faced with a challenge. A letter arrives from beyond the grave. Armande Voizin is dead and wants Vianne to return to Lansquenet knowing that the town needs Vianne again. Armande urges Vianne to return to the town and put flowers on her grave and help herself to the peaches from her peach tree. Vianne seems happy with her daughters and Roux living on a houseboat in Paris, but the call of Lansquenet is too much to ignore, so she, Anouk, and Rosette return with Roux opting to stay behind.
Vianne's return is certainly timely, and it's clear the town is not doing well. In the eight years since she left, the "river rats" have left, but in their place came Muslim families who set up a school in the old Chocolatier. Someone's burned it down and Father Francis, the same man who battled Vianne over her chocolates, is blamed for the fire, only he swears he didn't do it.
As Vianne gets to know the Muslims and also revisits old friends, a second mystery rears its head. Josephine, a woman who Vianne saved from an abusive husband, has an eight-year-old son. Vianne's shocked to learn her friend never told her she had a child. Vianne is pretty certain that that boy is Roux's, but she needs proof to confirm her suspicions.
This third book in the Lansquenet series really dives into the secrets people have been keeping and returns to the intolerance the French townspeople show towards any outsiders, just as they did with Vianne and her daughter years ago. The writing is lyrical and really pulls you in. I found myself heartbroken that it did come to an end. I really would like to move to this little town and enjoy the tight-knit community, something that seems to be vanishing here in the U.S. as people work longer hours and stay inside to do chores on days off.
If, like me, you've only watched the movie and missed the first book, there are things that don't quite fit. The movie is set in the 1950s, so I was a little shocked at first when the book was talking about cell phones and Facebook. You simply have to remember the movie does have its differences.