Saturday, June 8, 2013

Life and Death Through Chocolate's Eyes

I read one comment, online, stating that Chocolat is one of the few cases where the movie is better than the book. Maybe that's part of the reason why it took me so long to finally read the book.

But the truth is, I don't always think Chocolat is the best movie. I like it because it's about chocolate, but it's more about a moment in time than a changing plot. I do like it--I just wouldn't put it in my top five list or anything. So does that mean that the book is absolutely terrible, or that I just have differing opinions from the person who made the comment above?

Call it the latter. Chocolat by Joanne Harris does have a slow start and a medium pace throughout; you sit quietly with it while sipping chocolate and set the book down once your drink is done. Although it's just a 300 page paperback, it took me at least three weeks to finish. We already know the basic plot, so carefully taking in each sentence overrules any suspense/curiosity.

Because one of its subjects is chocolate, there are some lush passages describing the sweet and bitter treats Vianne creates in her shop. Unlike the movie, there is less about cacao and more about confections--which seems more realistic to me. I always wondered how Vianne could actually make all her chocolates out of cacao beans in that little shop, as the movie implied. The whole plot line about Vianne's mother is also entirely different, as is a certain something in Vianne's character. She's more complex in the book.

Most of these pages deal with the theme of warring opposites, the Dionysian and Apollinian, if you will. Or asceticism versus pleasure-seeking. Sometimes it is in characters, Vianne versus Reynaud--chocolate versus the church. But sometimes it is within one thing or person. And rather than the book pointing out the wondrousness of gorging on chocolate instead of sitting and listening to Reynaud's strict sermons, it seems, through its questions and fears of mortality, to point out the positives and negatives that exist on both sides. Vianne ponders all of life's questions through her chocolate shop.

Talk about literary chocolate. Don't try and speed read through it (unless you can't help it), ponder it, and you'll find it a good book that illuminates the imagery we saw in the movie.

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