Excerpt from Chocolat by Joanne Harris, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio


by Joanne Harris

  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 1999, 304 pages
    Jan 2000, 306 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"It's so dark, maman." She sounded awed, uncertain in the face of so much dereliction. "And it smells so sad."

She is right. The smell is like daylight trapped for years until it has gone sour and rancid, of mouse droppings and the ghosts of things unremembered and unmourned. It echoes like a cave, the small heat of our presence only serving to accentuate every shadow. Paint and sunlight and soapy water will rid it of the grime, but the sadness is another matter, the forlorn resonance of a house where no one has laughed for years. Anouk's face looked pale and large-eyed in the candlelight, her hand tightening in mine.

"Do we have to sleep here?" she asked. "Pantoufle doesn't like it. He's afraid."

I smiled and kissed her solemn golden cheek. "Pantoufle is going to help us."

We lit a candle for every room, gold and red and white and orange. I prefer to make my own incense, but in a crisis the bought sticks were good enough for our purposes, lavender and cedar and lemongrass. We each held a candle, Anouk blowing her toy trumpet and I rattling a metal spoon in an old saucepan, and for ten minutes we stamped around every room, shouting and singing at the top of our voices--Out! Out! Out!--until the walls shook and the outraged ghosts fled, leaving in their wake a faint scent of scorching and a good deal of fallen plaster. Look behind the cracked and blackened paintwork, behind the sadness of things abandoned, and begin to see faint outlines, like the afterimage of a sparkler held in the hand--here a wall adazzle with golden paint, there an armchair, a little shabby but colored a triumphant orange, the old awning suddenly glowing as half-hidden colors slide out from beneath the layers of grime. Out! Out! Out! Anouk and Pantoufle stamped and sang, and the faint images seemed to grow brighter--a red stool beside the vinyl counter, a string of bells against the front door. Of course, I know it's only a game. Glamours to comfort a frightened child. There'll have to be work done, hard work, before any of this becomes real. And yet for the moment it is enough to know that the house welcomes us, as we welcome it. Rock salt and bread by the doorstep to placate any resident gods. Sandalwood on our pillow to sweeten our dreams.

Later Anouk told me Pantoufle wasn't frightened anymore, so that was all right. We slept together in our clothes on the floury mattress in the bedroom with all the candles burning, and when we awoke it was morning.

Chapter Two
February 12.
Ash Wednesday

Actually the bells woke us. I hadn't realized quite how close we were to the church until I heard them, a single low resonant drone falling into a bright carillon--dómmm flá-di-dadi-dómmmm--on the downbeat. I looked at my watch. It was six o'clock. Gray-gold light filtered through the broken shutters onto the bed. I stood up and looked out onto the square, with its wet cobbles shining. The square white church tower stood out sharply in the morning sunlight, rising from a hollow of dark shopfronts; a bakery, a florist, a shop selling graveyard paraphernalia--plaques, stone angels, enameled everlasting roses.... Above these discreetly shuttered facades the white tower is a beacon, the Roman numerals of the clock gleaming redly at six-twenty to baffle the devil, the Virgin in her dizzy eyrie watching the square with a faintly sickened expression. At the tip of the short spire, a weathervane turns--west to west-north-west--a robed man with a scythe. From the balcony with the dead geranium I could see the first arrivals to mass. I recognized the woman in the tartan coat from the carnival; I waved to her, but she hurried on without an answering gesture, pulling her coat protectively around her. Behind her the felt-hatted man with his sad brown dog in tow gave me a hesitant smile. I called down brightly to him, but seemingly village etiquette did not allow for such informalities, for he did not respond, hurrying in his turn into the church, taking his dog with him.

From Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Copyright Joanne Harris 1999. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.