The movie Chocolat is probably one of my favorite movies. The story always makes me sad and happy cry, the characters feel real and beautiful and the movie’s general aesthetic is right up my alley. Also the chocolate, good lord the chocolate. The movie gives me all of the feelings including hunger. So, when I found out that it was based on the book, Chocolat by Joanne Harris I had to buy the book, make myself a batch of brownies, and spend some quality time with Chocolat…the story and the food.
Chocolat follows Vienne and her daughter Anouk as they move into a small town in the countryside in France. They set up a chocolate shop, right as Lent starts no less, and deal with all the classic characters and biases that come from being outsiders in a small town. I am happy to report that the movie stays very true to the book, as best a story can when it’s told in an entirely different media. I would be curious to hear what someone who hasn’t seen the movie thinks of the book because I found it almost impossible to separate the two. The characters, with one particular exception, were pretty much drawn in the same way they were for the movie. The antagonist of the piece was the main difference from the movie in that the movie focuses on the mayor of the town while the book actually sets Vienne against the priest. I can see why the filmmakers would want to avoid loading too much religious backing into the antagonist. Though it was fascinating to see the book actually switched perspectives between Vienne and Reynauld, the priest. The switching back and forth made some scenes from the movie that I find very emotional, much less impactful, however it gave us a peek into the madness that motivated his character.
The book is a quick read and kind of reminded me of Fannie Flagg’s books just because of how perfectly it depicted small town characters. There is something very particular about writing out a small town, the relationships are at once careful and obvious. Everyone knows everyone’s business and so diplomacy and deniability are names of the game. As soon as there is something to rally against, they rally, because doing something for the sake of the community is reason enough to do just about anything.
Chocolat is honestly the perfect quick read for the summer. It’s the type of story that welcomes you in and wants you to love all the characters as much as they love each other with the distinct advantage of being able to step back and know when they’re making mistakes. I think, generally, a good rule of thumb is that a book’s going to be a good read if it focuses on love and chocolate, and this story has an abundance of both. I’m going to go rewatch the movie and eat more brownies now…because stories and sugar are good for the soul.