Monday, 16 December 2013

Mini-view: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris - Jenny Colgan

As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris.

It's a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime - to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier.

With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate - and herself - than she ever dreamed.
Ok, so it's not necessarily a Christmas book but what's more indulgent and festive than chocolate? Exactly. I actually read The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris way back in October and if you follow me on twitter (cough, cough) you'll know that I came in prepared...

From my review of Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop it'll come as no surprise that I am a real fan of Colgan's books. When I saw Chocolate Shop in the store,  I grabbed it, ran a long to Thornton's (I've learnt from my mistakes) and headed for my train.

In a similar style to Rosie Hopkins, Chocolate Shop splits its narrative between Anna and Claire. Anna, our heroine, has had an accidient at work and finds herself out a few minor appendages and a job. Recovering in hopsital she is reunited with her old french teacher, Claire. Stuck in a rut, frustrated and going no where, Anna is cajoled into accepting Claire's fairy godmother-like intereference and a job in Paris. Somewhat relucant at first, Anna does come across as a bit of a victim; selfish, stubborn and immature but she is a character that you definitely grow to love. I'll admit at the beginning I just wanted her to get over it, but having said that, she handles moving to a new country with considerably more aplomb than I could ever manage.

Anna's awkward but earnest attempts to get along in Paris are juxtaposed with Claire's story. Organised by her mother, in an attempt to broadern her horizons and escape her strict father, Claire heads to Paris to au pair as a young teenager in the 1970s. As with Rosie Hopkins I couldn't tell you which story I preferred, both are equally well written, expertly paced and interconnect well. Claire's story is bittersweet and her ending is nicely buffered by Anna's beginning.  It is obvious throughout the novel that Colgan is intimately familiar with Paris, this isn't merely a setting chosen to enhance the romance of a book, it is truly a love affair between an author and a city.

Chocolate Shop is definitely the perfect treat for reading this Christmas and would make a great last minute gift if you're looking for a book that's indulgent but not overly festive - perfect for tucking in on Boxing Day with those left over Quality Streets.

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