'Chocolat' Author Returns with a Dark Confection Joanne Harris' new novel, The Girl with No Shadow, revisits the supernaturally sensuous world of Chocolat. But where the first book was about what makes people happy, Harris calls her latest a dark, urban fairy tale.
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'Chocolat' Author Returns with a Dark Confection

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'Chocolat' Author Returns with a Dark Confection

'Chocolat' Author Returns with a Dark Confection

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The second of May is not too soon to hear about this summer's big movies, and in a moment we'll hear about one of the first big action movies of this coming summer. But first, for equal time, remember a few years ago when the hit movie "Chocolat" hit movie screens. That's chocolate for those of you who are - those of us who are language impaired. It was the ultimate chick flick. Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, lots of chocolate.

Now the author of the book that inspired the movie has written a sequel and Martha Woodroof reports from member station WMRA.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTHA WOODROOF: In "The Girl with No Shadow," Joanne Harris revisits the world she created in Chocolat - one where ordinary seeming people don't quite live ordinary lives, which certainly describes the author's childhood.

Ms. JOANNE HARRIS (Author): I had a great grandmother who believed in so many strange superstitions that I was infused with these beliefs from an early age. She used to tell the future from the things that catch onto the hem of your skirt when you've been sewing. And different colored threads would mean different things. And if a black cat crossed your path it could be bad luck coming from one side or good luck coming from another. And certain flowers were bad luck. And certain signs were good luck. And, of course, all that influenced me quite a lot as a child.

WOODROOF: Is that child still alive in you?

Ms. HARRIS: Totally, yeah. She's writing the books now.

WOODROOF: Joanne Harris's 1996 "Chocolat" introduced us to Vianne Rocher, maker of magical sweets. On the pages as winsome and winning as Juliette Binoche was in the 2000 film.

(Soundbite of movie, "Chocolat")

Ms. JULIETTE BINOCHE (As Vianne Rocher): The pat of triangle, that's for you.

Unidentified Woman: Finally enough chili pepper to placate the sweetness -tangy, adventurous.

Ms. HARRIS: I hadn't realized at the time of writing Chocolat how much history and folklore has been attached to it.

WOODROOF: Joanne Harris says the appeal of chocolate is that we all know it's both delicious and somehow wrong.

Ms. HARRIS: We've always had this kind of built-in idea that confectionary and witchcraft are somehow linked - the idea that from the witch in the gingerbread house of which the tiles were made of chocolate to the snow queen and her enviable capacity to conjure up Turkish delight out of thin air. There's always been this kind of link between witches and confectionary.

WOODROOF: In "The Girl with No Shadow" five years have passed since Vianne Rocher closed the door of her shop in a picture postcard French village. Mother now, of two daughters, Vianne is attempting to live a quiet, non-magical, dutifully maternal life in Montmartre. And this life is just not working.

Ms. HARRIS: If "Chocolat" is milk chocolate, "The Girl with No Shadow" is dark chocolate.

WOODROOF: Joanne Harris describes this chapter of Vianne Rocher's life as a dark, urban fairy tale.

Ms. HARRIS: "Chocolat" was very much about what makes you happy, whereas "The Girl with No Shadow" is what makes you afraid. And Zozie, who is - I have to say - my favorite villain so far, has got the edgy attraction that you get from what frightens you and what's dangerous.

WOODROOF: IN this passage from the novel, as Vianne's older daughter first catches sight of Zozie, she mistakenly sees in her all the magical light and playfulness that her mother once had.

Ms. HARRIS: (Reading) From the back, at first, I thought I knew her. The bright red coat that matched her shoes, coffee cream hair tied back with a scarf. And were there bells on her print dress and a jingling charm bracelet around her wrist? And what was that - that faintest gleam in the wake of her, like something in a heat haze?

WOODROOF: Joanne Harris says she took up Vianne Rocher's story again because it just didn't feel finished after "Chocolat."

Ms. HARRIS: There might be a third book. Who knows? I don't think that this is necessarily the last chapter in her story.

WOODROOF: But the author hastens to add that she, like the rest of us, will just have to wait and see if Vianne Rocher and her magical desserts will reappear yet again to tempt the appetites of readers.

For NPR News, I'm Martha Woodroof.

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