The winter wind brings them to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes one cold February . Vianne Rocher, her little daughter Anouk and Anouk's imaginary rabbit friend Pantoufle.
Welcome to the wonderful, magical world of Chocolat, it will leave you reaching out, trying to grasp the magic that laces the book long after you have turned the last page. From the very first pages, conflicts are portrayed - internal conflicts, conflicts with outsiders, conflicts with the dead, conflicts with the sick, with fate, destiny...over beliefs. Lansquenet, a tiny blip on the French map is a village of little change, little magic, old traditions and prejudices, a little drab, a little colourless. Into this village of dreary routines, Vianne Rocher infuses scarlet, crimson and gold in the form of La Celeste Praline, her little chocolaterie.
Little by little, the villagers either take to Vianne or join the opposing group led by the priest, Francis Reynaud.
Father Reynaud, unsatisfied with the petty daily concerns of his little flock: Father Reynaud, who sets a path for himself but finds temptation right under his nostrils during the period of Lent. Is it just the chocolates or Vianne Rocher herself? We don't know. Fancis Reynaud carries dark secrets in his bosom and in his mad and blind devotion to what he calls "conventions of the church" shows a remarkable lack of empathy. Suddenly, ousting Vianne Rocher and her chocolates becomes his life's purpose.
Finally, there is Vianne herself. Vianne has spent her whole life running from The Black Man - priest, law, man, woman, conventions, customs, prejudices: anything that threatens to disrupt her life. Vianne has unresolved issues herself, she is not as self assured as she seems to be, she has grown up a certain way and has lived her life a certain way but what she ultimately wants is to stop running, to be accepted.
Chocolat is not just a book about the struggle between Vianne Rocher and Francis Reynaud or chocolate and the Church; the book brings out a million prejudices and notions, forces you into acceptance or rebellion. Joanne Harris has created a portrait of people whose inner most thoughts are retold in magical prose so that you feel as if you were a part of them. I will not call Chocolat a feel-good book. What Chocolat does, is tell you a story of how to let things be, let things go. Like it or hate it, you cannot ignore Chocolat once you have taken it up.
Go into La Celeste Praline, have a cup of hot chocolate and tell Vianne a little about yourself, you might even enjoy it.