Title: The Lollipop Shoes
Author: Joanne Harris
Published: Black Swan, 2008, pp. 572. Originally published 2007.
Blurb: Seeking refuge and anonymity in the cobbled streets of Montmartre, Yanne and her daughters, Rosette and Annie, live peacefully, if not happily, above their little chocolate shop. Nothing unusual marks them out; no red sachets hang by the door. The wind has stopped — at least for a while. Then into their lives blows Zozie de l’Alba, the lady with the lollipop shoes, and everything begins to change…
But this new friendship is not what it seems. Ruthless, devious and seductive, Zozie de l’Alba has plans of her own — plans that will shake their world to pieces. And with everything she loves at stake, Yanne must face a difficult choice; to flee, as she has done so many times before, or to confront her most dangerous enemy… Herself.
When, where and why: I picked this one up from my favourite second hand bookstall because I always enjoy Joanne Harris’ books. This one is a sequel to Chocolat, and I seized the opportunity to rejoin Vianne and Anouk as they work their magic in people’s lives. I knew I was going to enjoy this book and so it seemed the perfect read to follow the medieval monstrosity.
What I thought: I’ve enjoyed the Joanne Harris books that I’ve read in the past because of their luxurious, sensuous writing, filled with delights for all the senses, and their somewhat homely, domestic settings which are nonetheless never mundane. This book continues in that excellent tradition and I really enjoyed it, not least because I got to read about some of my favourite characters again.
Initially, I found this book a little confusing because it has three first person narrators, something that isn’t immediately obvious as they all have similar voices. Eventually I worked out that the little pictures at the head of each chapter represent the different women (a sun for Vianne, a Cat for Zozie and a moon for Anouk) but by the time I noticed this I was about halfway through the book and I didn’t really need them. At first this lack of distinction irritated me, but as the book progressed I came to the conclusion that that was exactly the point: Anouk’s voice blurs into Zozie’s which blurs into Vianne’s. This happens in direct speech as well as in the narration and I found it a key part of showing the insidious way in which Zozie subtly takes over their lives.
I think that I prefered the balance between magic and everyday happenings in Chocolat: there the magic seemed more subtle and commonplace, whereas it is overt and plays a more central role in The Lollipop Shoes. However, I think that this was a necessary shift of focus to prevent the sequel being a reiteration of the first book rather than the unique novel it is, and I still love the way in which Joanne Harris weaves the two elements together throughout the book, using magic to explore commonplace issues such as growing up and being an outsider.
Where this book goes: This book has been added to my ever growing Joanne Harris collection, although I’m fairly sure my mother is going to want to steal it soon.
Tea talk: This book had me wanting to reach for the hot chocolate, filled as it was with mouthwatering descriptions of confectionery. However, I was good and opted for some sweet, tasty Milk Oolong. Not quite as good as hot chocolate made with milk, cream, real chocolate, sugar and cinnamon, but much better for the diet.