September 2016
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The Girl with No Shadow, Joanne Harris

This sequel to CHOCOLAT is much darker and more intense.  You should read that book before this one.  Although enough hints are dropped that you may understand what’s going on, you will lose a lot of affection for the characters and important background.  Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk have assumed new names and new, nondescript personalities in an effort to evade the Black Man, who is always chasing them.  When Zozie, full of magic, enters their lives, it’s impossible for them to resist her appeal, and she quickly establishes herself with Vianne and Anouk.  She is also a viewpoint character, which means the reader suspects her from the very beginning of being something much worse than the other characters can see.

The book starts slowly as we grow accustomed to the Rochers’ new life.  Anouk attends a regular school and suffers as any pre-teen does.  Vianne hides her vibrant personality as she romantically entangles herself with their landlord, a regular man.  Their chocolaterie barely pays the rent.  Zozie emerges as a helping hand, and the reader quickly sees that she is just as Vianne used to be, before Vianne became afraid.  The plot escalates from there and remains very gripping throughout.  It’s much stronger than CHOCOLAT in that sense, but also not nearly as endearing.  There are no Armandes or Josephines and many of the chocolaterie’s customers remain a scanty character sketch.  A few exceptions exist, like one of Anouk’s friends, but overall, there isn’t the same feeling of community.

It’s easy to feel frustrated with Anouk and Vianne for being blind, as well, as they remain ignorant to Zozie’s secrets long after she has revealed them to the reader in her sections.   They are still the most likable characters in the book, particularly Anouk, and I grew even fonder of them than I was before.

This book has much to recommend it.  The plot is suspenseful and tightly woven, the main characters elicit strong feelings from the reader, and the entire book is very satisfying by the end.  I enjoyed the relationships between characters most of all as they grow and change.  I’d definitely tell a friend to read it.

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