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Strawberry Thief - review

I'm lucky I've read many of Joanne's books and was also lucky to be her bookseller not only today for the start of her tour for The Strawberry Thief, but also when she launched the previous book, Peaches for Monsieur Le Cure too as well as Runemarks on 11/11/11 and blueeyedboy too.

So, I know what she has done and have always been in awe of her imagination and evocations she weaves with her words.

She has many talents, being nice and able to share time with fans and libraries and bookshops, this is pretty good across the book world, but she has more too, she can be lyrical, suggestive, intense and astute at the same time. She is a superb purveyor of the multi voice and multi angled narrative, you are drawn into so many characters stories, they blend and tease with you and each other.

In this stunning 4th and we hope not last instalment of Chocolat, we get voices, shadows and magic on many levels.

What started as a wind blown whim of circumstance has grown into an epic, we have characters who have literally grown up as the books have been imagined, always there is something new, no matter what we knew or now know. Perhaps the greatest character here is Francis Reynard, originally a stiff and nasty cleric, now a guilt ridden and questioning of his faith and stature apostle of magic, something he'd not believe in, nor would he ghosts.... even Holy ones?

Vianne is as ever central, but in this book also peripheral as Rosette gains her voice, or rather a shadow of it, accompanied ever by her familiar ,
Bam! and what fun they have, seeing, shaping and interpreting every nuance of a craft.

There is a replication of Lent as was, this time, the Chocolaterie  is accepted as being part of the village, but what of the new Illuminating presence opposite? We have a new force of nature and one that is arguably equal to Vianne, we have a new 'witch' one with the power to draw others to them, like moths to flames, seeking their inner needs or  wants....

Vianne must seek the power of the Hurakan, ever respectful of the consequences, she knows what happens if the wind changes direction, it can take or leave things as it pleases...

The artistry in layering a history and bringing it to life in the present is impeccable here, we have 60 years of past encapsulated in a legal document entrusted to Reynard concerning the land of the Strawberry Thief with a heart of Oak and it deliciously offers us a truffle of taste and intrigue connected to religion and birth.

There are  as ever rivalries, hate and love and magic, lots of magic, some is very real it's conjured by one of the world's best storytellers, someone who can weave it with literal meaning and layer it with the taste and scent of time past immemorial, brought from afar and yet very much all encompassing of us in this moment. 

Joanne described her books as reworked spaghetti westerns, she has a point, keep it simple, have simple settings and a balance of good vs bad, but with angles like seeing where to be when the bullets fly, a loner arrives, is shunned and sniped at, can they shoot back, what with and why?

If the loner has power and is right they will prevail, this doesn't mean the dark clothed Marshall or misguided locals will be disposed of, it simply means we must have the wit and charm to survive with our backs to the wall and odds against us.

I would love to give plot away, I swore when I started my little blog, I'd elude and not expose....

Joanne said, she's allowed the series to grow and develop like life, she says her own daughter is a close replica of Anouk, one who was born and grew and had to develop as we all do as we learn from the past and our families, in a mirror she too is married and has moved on, akin to here.

Mirrors are a powerful way of seeing and not seeing, the subtlety is reality or belief, as Reynard, Rosette and Vianne all find.

With a Wishing Well, sumptuous rewards swirled and spiced in the Chocolaterie, we add words and meanings, this is a modern day Midsummer or rather Oestre Feast, we must be willing to sacrifice desire and want for what we need...

We need both love, family and nourishment, these are amply provided, whether you take it as a reward for reading, or as a metaphor for sins and forgiveness is your choice.

Joanne deals with issues, she questions, social class, ownership, religion, belief, love and acceptance of others. There is always the unknown, names hold power, knowledge is power and really magic is power. 

DO follow @joannechocolat and @boltonlms for future delights

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