“Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liquer, plies her culinary trade at the creperie – and lets memory play strange games.
Into this world comes the threat of revelation as Framboise’s nephew – a profiteering Parisian – attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes she has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers of Les Laveuses. As the spilt blood of a tragic wartime childhood flows again, exposure beckons for Framboise, the widow with an invented past.”
Joanne Harris I’ve always considered as a hit and miss author. Now I realise there is a pattern to the books I liked that were written by her. The first book I read by Joanne Harris was Chocolat and I fell in love with it. It was probably the first novel I’d read that was set in a different country to the UK and I loved the idea of a little french village. I then read Blackberry Wine which I loved for similar reasons. I was therefore quite surprised when I tried Holy Fools and got bored. I then realised what it was that made me love the first two books. Joanne Harris has a remarkable talent for portraying the emotions and family ties caused by food. It’s the one thing that always manages to bring people together. I therefore tried Five Quarters of the Orange and it turns out I was right, I loved it.
This novel switches from the present day Framboise to when she was a child. This confused me at first but it was a brilliant way of writing and creating suspense as I desperately tried to get to the end to find out what it was that made the adult Framboise so ashamed of her childhood.
The chapters that were based on the younger Framboise were my favourites. As a child she grew up on a french farm and spend most of her time tending crops and making food such as jam. It always sounds like such a wonderful life! I’d missed the bit about the war when I read the back of this book which is lucky because it usually puts me off. However this was a very interesting angle on the war, there were little or no bombings and the terror of wartime childhood wasn’t portrayed at all. This might because Framboise and her siblings grew up on a village farm where the threats were lower. The german soldiers buying information from the children was really interesting to me as I’d never heard of it before. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to give to much away!
The older Framboise’s story didn’t grip me quite as much but it served as a teaser and kept me reading because I wanted to find out what had happened in her childhood. I liked the idea of her little creperie though and the scrapbook left by her mother was a beautiful addition. I love the idea of a recipe scrapbook slash diary and it just adds to what I was saying before about food and emotions.
All in all I really enjoyed this novel. I didn’t speed through it like I do with the novels that really grip me but I did want to keep reading. It definitely restored my faith in Joanne Harris but from now on I’ll look for titles with food in them!
Have you read this book? What do you think of novels based on the emotional aspects of food and family life?