The author of Chocolat, Joanne Harris, presents a mesmerizing work of historical fiction with Five Quarters of the Orange. Framboise Simon (nee Dartigen) returns to her home village in France to set up an eatery using her mother’s recipes. The culinary masterpieces were gifted to her in her mother’s journal, but Framboise receives something else she didn’t bargain for – a disturbing look at her past.
Her childhood was spent during the Nazi occupation of France, and there is a mystery surrounding the death of a German officer and her mother’s relationship to him. Framboise has spent years trying to hide from the past, and now she must come face to face with it.
Not only was this a tragic and page-turning story, but I loved Joanne Harris’ writing. There’s so much subtle information here – the relationships between truth and lies, mothers and daughters, survival and defeat. And there’s always something hidden, waiting to be revealed. Harris also has the mind of a child captured spot on. Even though you can’t help but feel Framboise is a horrible nine year old – you must also realize that she had limited culpability because she is a child. As a mother of a nine year old, I could immediately understand that Framboise truly didn’t understand the consequences of her actions (although she certainly knew right from wrong). Adult Framboise is forced to look at the truth about her childhood as revealed in her mother’s journal, and she ends up discovering some surprises as well.
This was a beautifully written book.
5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2002
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