I was charmed by The Strawberry Thief, the fourth book by Joanne Harris featuring the characters from Chocolat. Vianne Rocher is still making chocolate with a dusting of magic in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, but now her daughter Anouk has grown up and gone to Paris. In this once upon a time, Vianne’s younger daughter, Rosette, is the main girl when the wind begins to blow.
Rosette is a delightful heroine. She is Vianne’s ‘special child’ and prone to ‘Accidents’ which happen when her magical powers get out of hand. Rosette doesn’t go to school and rarely speaks, instead communicating with her mother, friends and community by making bird noises or somehow inserting her words into other people’s heads.
The story begins with the death of Narcisse, who was the florist from across the square. Narcisse surprised everyone by leaving some land to Rosette in his will, knowing she would treasure the woods which house a strawberry patch and an old well. This infuriated Narcisse’s daughter, who inherited the rest of Narcisse’s estate, which was far less valuable for her to sell without the wood.
Almost overnight, a mysterious stranger opened a tattoo parlour in Narcisse’s old shop, enticing many of the town people, including Reynaud the priest, Vianne’s lover Roux and her dear friend Josephine to get a tattoo. Vianne is the only one who is wary of the tattooist and warns Rosette to stay away from the tattooist and her magic.
The Strawberry Thief is a lighter, quicker read than some of the other books in the Chocolat series, but makes up for this with its bewitching charm. As usual with Joanne Harris’ books, for me this was one I didn’t want to put down.