by Joanne Harris
Published in USA as Peaches For Father Francis.
Peaches For Monsieur Le Curé is the second sequel to Joanne Harris’ best known book Chocolat, which was also made into a film of the same name starring Juliet Binoche and Alfred Molina.
Eight years after leaving the village of Lansquenet, Vianne Rocher returns drawn back by a letter from her dead friend Armande Voizin. Vianne arrives with her daughters Anouk and Rosette find local Priest, Monsieur Le Curé, accused of arson. It is believed that he set fire to a Muslim girls school that had been opened in what was once Vianne’s Chocolaterie.
Across the Tannes river, in Marauds a community of Moroccans has been established. Relations between the two communities were initially cordial, but in the months before Vianne’s return, she arrives at the start of Ramadan, they had become distinctly unfriendly, even hostile.
The burned school was run by Ines Bencharki, who was a source of much speculation within her own community, as well as antagonising Lansquenet’s residents. Ines always wore the islamic niqab covering her face. She was believed responsible for adoption of traditional islamic female dress by other muslim women in the community. This seemed to drive a wedge between the villagers and the muslims.
Whereas Chocolat was set in a somewhat ambiguous time, Peaches For Monsieur Le Curé is set solidly in the twenty first century. World matters from beyond the quiet village’s borders are beginning to encroach into the villagers’ ways.
While quite different from Chocolat, Peaches For Monsieur Le Curé has an easy going charm about it. It is easy to believe in some of the characters and at one point I even found myself not just sympathising with Monsieur Le Curé’s predicament but chatting to him. It was a pleasure to read.
“To belong so often means to exclude; to think in terms
of us and them – two little words that, juxtaposed,
so often lead to conflict.” – Monsieur Le Curé.