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Peaches for Father Francis: A Novel by…
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Peaches for Father Francis: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Joanne Harris

Series: Chocolat (3)

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3621530,006 (3.9)24
Member:CynWetzel
Title:Peaches for Father Francis: A Novel
Authors:Joanne Harris
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Collections:Read 2013
Rating:*****
Tags:13 in 13

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Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris (2012)

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It isn't often you receive a letter from the dead. When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to follow the wind that blows her back to Lansquenet, the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Vianne is completely unprepared for what she finds there. Women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and there, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the square little tower of the church of Saint-Jerome like a piece on a chessboard - slender, bone-white and crowned with a silver crescent moon - a minaret. Nor is it only the incomers from North Africa that have brought big changes to the community. Father Reynaud, Vianne's erstwhile adversary, is now disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him?

Vianne Rocher, the woman who set up shop in Lansquenet in Chocolat returns to the town at the request of one of her friends - now long dead - via a letter left for her to be handed over on her grandson's 21st birthday.

She brings her two daughters Anouk and Rosette (and their not-quite-invisible friends) with her, but her partner Roux remains in Paris on their house boat. His anger at how the boat people were treated the last time has not disappaited enough for him to return. Vianne returns to find things have changed significantly - Father Renaud is no longer saying mass in the church, and is in some kind of disgrace and the old tanneries outside of town is now packed with Muslims from North Africa. The influx of these second and third generation immigrants - barely keeping inside the law with respect to their mosque and schools - is causing tension within the community and Vianne has returned into this tension between the two communities.

Vianne uses her charm and special skills in an attempt to bring some form of calm to the community. She comes across some of her old adversaries, many of whom are in various levels of success or disappointment. The young Muslim women, who previously had enjoyed a level of western freedom of dress, are taking to the veil and removing themselves from community, and it is seen to be the effect of another recent arrival in town, who remains under the veil since the day she arrived.

Finally things come to a head, where people have gone missing, the river-rats (including Roux) have arrived back in town, and it seems there have a lot of accusations, misunderstandings, and secrets are exposed on both sides that mean the story reaches a crises point, and it is only a meeting of both groups around the river (that metaphorically and physically runs between the two sets of people) that brings things to a head and allows it to be resolved.

There is the usual magical realism in this, where Vianne uses her skills (Chocolate, Tarot cards, reading colours/auras) to try and work out what's happening. Vianne's lack of self confidence kicks in when she sees the son of a friend, who was born after Chocolat, and whose father just might be Roux. The story is told from a French atheist (pagan?) woman and the local Catholic priest, rather than that of any Muslim, so this can only be told from their point of view. Each woman is portrayed as a human first, rather than a stereotype, and the story goes some way as to show how things are handled according to the strict rules of each person’s community…

This is/was a well timed book, having been published in 2012, when there were still questions over whether the Niqab was to be banned in France. I have seen some reviewers complain that perhaps Muslim women should be allowed to tell their own stories their own way, but until Western readers and publishers are open enough to publish (buy, read, promote) books by Muslim women, then we will have to make use of those who can handle the story adequately.
  nordie | Aug 11, 2014 |
Chocolat, book three.

I've been a fan of Joanne Harris for many years now (though not of her newer Young Adult fantasy series), and another book in the Chocolat series is a treat. I did wish I'd read Lollipop Shoes (The Girl with No Shadow) before reading this book though, as there were definitely some gaps caused by jumping straight from Chocolat. Unfortunately I didn't have time to read both before the discussion.

The subject matter is highly topical, particularly in France, where it has been declared illegal to wear a face veil, or niqab. The sleepy village of Lansquenet, where Vianne had opened her chocolaterie eight years before, is now home to a growing population of North African Muslims. A community has sprung up on the far side of the river and animosity has developed on both sides. A mysterious letter draws Vianne back, along with her, now teenage daughter, Anouk and her younger sister, Rosette. Meanwhile, Roux awaits for their return on a houseboat in Paris.

The animosity between Vianne and Father Reynaud is still there, but he has changed and no longer has the power over the village that he once had. Several other familiar faces take their place in the narrative, like old friends returning.
Eight year old Rosette is a lively addition to the Roche family, she is such a character, and she plays an important role in events. The descriptions of the village are just beautiful and the whole flavour of France is wonderfully evoked.
There are misunderstandings to be tackled and a question lurking in the past that must be addressed, and Vianne stays longer than she had originally planned.

I was surprised when my book group slated this book, as I'd enjoyed it, maybe not quite as much as Chocolat, but it was a solid 4 stars. They criticised it for being too unbelievable, but I think you expect to need a little imagination for Joanne Harris books.
Ms Harris handles the racial tension with a deft hand, raising a subject that is rarely written about in contemporary novels. This seems a natural progression for an author who wrote about Catholicism in Holy Fools, and she handles it with discretion.

I sincerely hope this is not the last we have seen of Vianne and the little village of Lansquenet. The author will be at the Dubai Literary Festival in March, hopefully she will have good news :)

Also read:
Chocolat (5 stars)
Blackberry Wine (5 stars)
Sleep, Pale Sister (4 stars)
Gentlemen and Players (5 stars)
Runemarks (2 stars)
Coastliners (5 stars)
Holy Fools (4 stars)
Five Quarters of the Orange (5 stars) ( )
  DubaiReader | Jan 18, 2014 |
Peaches for Father Frances is also a carefully constructed, thought-provoking novel exploring faith, the personal meaning and ways of worship, and the evolution of fellowship and religion in a community struggling to endure tensions between Muslims and Christians. ( )
  daniellnic | Sep 25, 2013 |
I always love Joanne Harris's novels. Her characters seem to come alive, and her evocative language truly captures the feel of the setting - the scent, the smell, the lifestyle, it makes it all seem so real. "Peaches" is no exception. It does have some darker moments, and Vianne is having to explore a bit more of her own nature,reflecting on her life and where it is going, growing more than the free spirit caught in the wind. Of course, the biggest changes have been wrought in Monsieur Cure, still stuck in his ways, but he too has grown a little more accepting. He would never, before, have asked Vianne for help. Harris writes few villains, merely characters whose goals do not always coincide and, indeed, often clash. Real people, whose thoughts and hopes, desires and dreams are almost tangiable.I love her work, and shall continue to read it for as long as she may write it! ( )
  LemurKat | Sep 12, 2013 |
Another cracker from Joanne Harris - yes, it was a little slow to get going, but hang on in there and the magic really begins to happen. This time round I loved Monsieur le Cure who's just a delight and a wonderfully unlikely hero - I loved him and would definitely read more - does he need his own book? I do hope so.

Later there's a real sense of horror in the secret crimes which go on in the village (and beyond) - but this balances nicely with the sensuous poetry and the magic. Excellent stuff and, as always, a superb and mystical ending. ( )
  AnneBrooke | Sep 11, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
To my father, Bob Short, who would never let good fruit go to waste.
First words
Someone once told me that, in France alone, a quarter of a million letters are delivered every year to the dead.
Quotations
Scrying with chocolate is an uncertain business, closer to dreams than to truth, more likely to throw up fantasies than anything that I can use. It flutters like dark confetti, each piece an ephemeral fragment, gleaming for a second and then going out like a blown spark.
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Disambiguation notice
British title: Peaches for Monsieur le Curé (May 2012); US title: Peaches For Father Francis (October 2012);
from Wikipedia.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670026360, Hardcover)

The bestselling author of Chocolat and The Girl with No Shadow returns to Lansquenet in this enchanting new novel, Peaches for Father Francis (in the UK called Peaches for Monsieur le Curé)

When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to follow the wind that blows her back to Lansquenet, the beautiful French village in which eight years ago she opened a chocolate shop and first learned the meaning of home.

But returning to one’s past can be a dangerous pursuit. Vianne, with her daughters, Anouk and Rosette, finds Lansquenet changed in unexpected ways: women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea—and there, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the church, a minaret. Most surprising of all, her old nemesis, Father Francis Reynaud, desperately needs her help.

Can Vianne work her magic once again?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Vianne Rochet returns to the French village of Lansquenet with her daughters, Anouk and Rosette, before allying herself with a desperate Father Frances Reynaud to reverse disturbing local changes.

(summary from another edition)

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