One From the Archive: ‘The Lollipop Shoes’ by Joanne Harris ****

First published in May 2014.

I have been meaning to read The Lollipop Shoes ever since I finished Chocolat, and I am unsure as to why it has taken me about two and a half years to begin it.  I hoped that it wouldn’t be disappointing, as sequels so often seem to be.  I was a little skeptical, as the last couple of Joanne Harris books which I have read haven’t been as good as I was expecting either.  The premise of the novel is intriguing: 

“Who died?” I said, “or is it a secret?”
“My mother, Vianne Rocher.”

Seeking refuge and anonymity in the cobbled streets of Montmartre, Yanne and her daughters, Rosette and Annie, live peacefully, if not happily, above their little chocolate shop.  Nothing unusual marks them out; no red sachets hang by the door.  The wind has stopped – at least for a while.  Then into their lives blows Zozie de l’Alba, the lady with the lollipop shoes, and everything begins to change…  But this new friendship is not what it seems.  Ruthless, devious and seductive, Zozie de l’Alba has plans of her own – plans that will shake their world to pieces.  And with everything she loves at stake, Yanne must face a difficult choice; to flee, as she has done so many times before, or to confront her most dangerous enemy…  herself.”

The book is told from the perspectives of Zozie, Yanne (the Vianne Rocher of Chocolat), and her daughter, Annie (Anouk).  Subsequent chapters are told in their voices, all of which are differentiated from one another.  This technique enables Harris to build up the whole seamlessly, allowing the reader to see the same event from different perspectives.

Zozie is an interesting character construct – she has taken over many identities in her life, choosing them from those who have passed away.  In this manner, she finds it easier to do such things as to open credit accounts and rent apartments in their names.  She dresses as she believes each individual would, and is therefore vividly colourful and rather quirky in her outfit choices.  Annie is a marvellous young protagonist, and is certainly my favourite character in the novel.  I even found myself inwardly cheering for her actions at times.

As in Chocolat, there are elements of magic here, which lend themselves wonderfully to the Paris setting, which is beautifully evoked within the novel.  The storyline which Harris has crafted is both absorbing and surprising.  Although the novel did tend to feel a touch drawn out at times, it was ultimately enjoyable, and I am looking forward to seeing how the trilogy ends.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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