THE STRAWBERRY THIEF By Joanne Harris (Orion £20, 368 pp)
THE STRAWBERRY THIEF
By Joanne Harris (Orion £20, 368 pp)
Fans of Chocolat — and who isn’t? — will be thrilled at this return to Lansquenet, the rural French village setting for Harris’s most famous novel.
Juliette Binoche — sorry, Vianne Rocher — is still there with her tempting chocs, as is the mysterious Roux (aka Johnny Depp), down by the river on his houseboat.
Their teenage daughter Rosette is the focus of this story; she has been left land by an old man who has died.
His nasty relatives are not pleased about this and a battle of wills commences, in which a Pagnolesque tale of a long-ago murder is revealed.
And there’s more trouble in the lissom shape of Morgane (the clue’s in the name) who arrives in the village to open a tattoo parlour.
She’s Vianne’s equal when it comes to witchy wiles, and before long half the village is being inked. Can our crafty chocolatier see her off?
This brilliant, vivid, atmospheric novel is written in sequence by the main characters: Vianne, the troubled local priest and, most fascinatingly, Rosette, the child who rarely speaks.
She prefers to communicate through animal noises, imaginary friends and by bending the wind to her will.
Packed with magic and mystery, this beautifully written tale is as irresistible as Vianne’s famous pralines.
THE LOST SON By Prue Leith (Quercus £16.99, 368 pp)
THE LOST SON
By Prue Leith (Quercus £16.99, 368 pp)
This latest book in the series about the restaurant-owning Angelotti family has a surprise for matriarch Laura.
The son she gave up for adoption half a century ago turns up on her doorstep.
Tom’s a rich, successful City trader now, with a hard-bitten, glossy girlfriend.
But once he meets the charismatic cooking Italians, both his girlfriend and the City get the heave-ho and Tom starts a new career as consigliere and financier to his new-found family.
His arrival comes at a good time for Anna, Laura’s rebellious granddaughter, who is getting into trouble with drink and drugs — Tom helps her get back on the straight and narrow.
But not even Tom can do much about the 2008 financial crash which wreaks havoc on the family businesses and puts them at the mercy of evil cousin Jane.
Amiable, absorbing and satisfying, with some sensitive things to say about adoption and addiction.