05/06/2006

Five Quarters of the Orange (by Joanne Harris)

'Five Quarters of the Orange' is the third novel I've read by Joanne Harris. Like the others, it's set in rural France and there's a lot of cooking in it. Unlike the others, it's a complex and sometimes dark story with frequent flashbacks to World War II when France was occupied by the Nazis.

The main character, Framboise, is in her sixties as the book starts. She tells us that she's settled into her old family house, but under her married name, without any of the neighbours knowing who her family was, because of some terrible event in the past that made her an outcast. As the book gradually unfolds, with scenes from present intertwined with the past, we learn what the secret is, and how she eventually deals with it.

It took a while to get going, but by the time I was half-way through I was very involved in both the plot and the people. It was cleverly written, with information revealed a little like that of a mystery story, and the eventual climax working well. Thought-provoking in places, a book I will probably think about from time to time for a few weeks. Recommended.

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