Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Lollipop Shoes* by Joanne Harris

If I have one major complaint about Joanne Harris, it's that all her books are a bit same-ish, thus making her work somewhat predictable. Then again, this could be a favourable quality – you know what you're going to get with her and in my opinion, the standard is high.

Obviously I loved Chocolat; full of delicious, cocoa-dusted confectionary and Harris' own brand of magic. And all the other books of hers I've read (Holy Fools, Coastliners, Blackberry Wine) have had that same mystical quality that makes her work just… scrumptious. The Lollipop Shoes is no exception, with all the sensitivity, sensuality and spice of a Joanne Harris book and a little dollop of black magic to boot.

Picking up four years after Chocolat ends, we find Vianne & Anouk in very different circumstances. Now known as Yanne and Annie, they live a quiet life above a dusty chocolaterie in Montmartre, attempting normalcy and anonymity. They even succeed for a time, Yanne wearing black shoes and Pantoufle just a vague shadow at Annie's heels. But the wind never stays quiet for long, and one afternoon in late autumn Zozie de l'Alba comes blowing into their lives on it. Vibrant, exciting & mysterious, she's a hard package to ignore, and Annie (now 12) is especially taken with her vivacious shoe collection.

Helping Yanne with the shop and Annie with her school troubles, Zozie seems like a godsend. But Zozie, with her knowledge of voodoo and Aztec magic, has a hidden agenda, and her sinister plans will shake their quiet new world to its fragile core.

It is written from three different perspectives in alternating chapters: Zozie's, Yanne's and Annie's. While I love Harris' style of writing which she imbues with such flavour, I don't think she quite got the hang of the shifting narratives. Their voices didn't change much – it was like the same actor reading three parts in the same way. That said, it was her usual high quality of emotive and fragrant prose which made The Lollipop Shoes pleasurable for me. And I think it's accurate to say that if you love one of Harris' books, you'll love them all.

*published in the US as The Girl With No Shadow

No comments: