I was first introduced to this story by the film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. And while I do love the film, I must say that I do like the book as well. The film, I think, is lighter in tone than the book, especially with its supporting cast and the little romances that blossom under the subtle influence of Vianne and her chocolaterie. The book, instead, has a darker tone, focusing on relationships and interpersonal reactions among the inhabitants of this small town. Instead of romance, Vianne’s presence helps these people achieve a sense of autonomy and freedom from their fears and insecurities.
Unlike the film, the main obstacle Vianne faces in the town is the priest, père Reynaud. Like the mayor in the film, le père is struggling with his own inner demons, old memories from the past, only exacerbated by Vianne’s presence. I did like the book’s use of a split narrative; it was interesting to be able to read père Reynaud’s confessions with the old priest, as well as read about the thoughts and fears of Vianne herself.
The relationship between Vianne and Anouk at times mirrored my own close relationship with my mother, and it was a pleasure to read—though nowadays, my mom resembles Armande more than Vianne with her dry wit and cackle-like laughter. ;) I just wasn’t very thrilled by how the book ended. Vianne feels that she’s achieved everything she could in the town, and fears the wind's calling her and Anouk away. I was left hanging and wanted more than I got. I’m glad that Harris has written a sequel, which I plan to read, hoping some of my unanswered questions will finally be answered.