In Harris’s sequel to Chocolat (1999), the paranormally gifted chocolate-maker Vianne Rocher has moved from rural France to Paris, where she tries to create a life of anonymity.
After an unfortunate “accident”—a child’s magical impulse gone astray—Vianne has forsworn her paranormal power to ensure her family’s stability. Using an assumed name, she lives above her chocolate shop in Montmarte with 11-year-old Anouk (now called Annie by schoolmates) and four-year old Rosette, who does not speak but possesses special gifts for drawing, signing and creating her own “accidents” despite her mother’s attempts to avoid them. Vianne herself no longer makes her own “special” candies. Her middle-aged, well-meaning but conventional landlord, Thierry, has become her suitor, and she has exchanged her red dress for basic black. Enter Zozie de l’Alba, flamboyant, charming and soulless, a woman who lives by stealing identities, whether by literal theft of credit cards or by more supernatural means. Zozie is attracted to the energy of the chocolatier and particularly to Anouk, who is struggling with heightened preteen anxieties and resentments, a desire both to fit in and remain different. Iago-like Zozie insinuates herself into Vianne’s family. She draws much-needed new customers by redecorating the shop and charming patrons while encouraging Vianne to make her own delicious, if no longer magical, candies. She becomes Vianne’s friend and a confidante to Anouk as the girl sorts out social problems at school. But Zozie lets readers know early on that her plans are sinister. She wants Vianne’s identity and carefully drives a wedge between mother and daughter. Then Vianne’s old lover, and Rosette’s secret father, Roux, shows up. Zozie senses a kindred amoral spirit. The psychology of these characters is as complicated and spellbinding as their purported magic.
A contemporary, razor-edged fairy tale—very dark chocolate but likely to be gobbled up.