09/04/2013

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris (by Jenny Colgan)

For some reason, I had not previously read any books by Jenny Colgan, despite having read several reviews of her work. They sounded interesting enough that I put a couple on my wishlist, and was then delighted to spot one on The Bookbag site, so I asked for a copy.

The cover of 'The loveliest chocolate shop in Paris' is attractive with a hint of nostalgia, and a 'chick-lit' look about it that was quite appealing. I decided to read it at the airport and on a five-hour flight - and it was ideal for the purpose.

The main character is Anna who has been working as a supervisor at a chocolate factory. She’s 30, and recently split with her boyfriend. Then a freak accident at work, followed by a nasty infection in hospital leaves her unemployed, apathetic and with no idea what her future holds.

While in hospital, Anna becomes friendly with Claire, who - years previously - was her French teacher. To pass the time, Claire teaches Anna some more French and then Claire suggests that she might take a temporary job in Paris with an old friend of hers.

The story is mostly set in the 21st century, following Anna as she sets out into the unknown. But interleaved throughout is the story of Claire’s own adventures in Paris when she was 17. Although the two women are a generation apart in age, and grew up in different circumstances, their stories intertwine beautifully as each begins to experience a new culture. Claire as a teenager was entranced by the chocolate maker Thierry; it’s his shop, now famous throughout France, where Anna is now working. Thierry has become seriously obese as he has grown older, and it’s his son whom Anna finds oddly attractive.

There are romantic threads, but there’s also a lot about French culture, and some detail about the process of chocolate-making.  I felt as if I had learned quite a bit, yet at no point did I feel that I was being coerced into education. The writing flows well, and it was an ideal book for me to read on the flight.

Recommended for anyone who likes a story that’s both light and poignant. Available in Kindle form in both the US and UK, as well as paperback.

You can also read my slightly longer review of 'The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris' at the Bookbag site.

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