Author Joanne Harris. Photo by Jennifer Robertson of Kyte Photography. Photo courtesy of Kyte Photography and Joanne Harris.

Writer Watch

Joanne Harris

Brisbane Writers Festival goers were delighted to welcome author JOANNE HARRIS  in September 2012 and her four appearances for the festival were well attended. Fans pounced upon her new book, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé, which continues the story of the charming characters Joanne first introduced in her much-loved novel Chocolat.

Joanne said that she had a lot of fun in Australia and would love to do it again, not least for the fine and sunny days in Brisbane - a far cry from the cold, wet and windy weather currently plaguing the UK.

Next stop on Joanne's world tour is South Africa, where she will appear in the Open Book Festival. Then, in early October, she will tour the USA before going to Canada and then on to Italy in November. 

For those still unfamiliar with Joanne Harris, she was born in 1964, of a French mother and an English father in a corner shop in Barnsley with no central heating and an outside loo. Nothing daunted, Joanne studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and became a teacher for fifteen years – in fact she taught French to grammar school boys for 12 years – what stamina!

No doubt she thought that becoming a novelist would be less traumatic than teaching, so she did. Joanne’s books are now published in over forty countries and have won a number of British and international awards.

Joanne is probably most familiar to readers as the author of Chocolat, the story of Vianne Rocher, a single mother with wanderlust and a six-year-old daughter, who arrives in the village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes in rural France and moves into a disused bakery facing the church. When the rigid and opinionated curé of the parish, Francis Reynaud, realises that she is going to open a chocolate shop and tempt his churchgoers with the sin of indulgence (and on a Sunday too) he is determined to be rid of her.

As the villagers succumb to both Vianne’s charm and chocolate, the curé becomes desperate to win back his flock, and after he realises that she plans to hold a chocolate festival, on Easter Sunday for God’s sake, the divided community threatens to break apart.   

Vianne and her daughter Anouk prepare to move on yet again, but a handsome and charismatic river man arrives in the village, precipitating a cascade of events which forces the inhabitants to make a decision between religious dogma and human understanding. 

The novel was optioned and the film went into production with a screenplay adapted from the novel by Robert Nelson and Lasse Hallström as director. This captivating movie, starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Alfred Molina, was nominated for five Oscars in 2001, as well as another twenty-nine nominations and nine award wins.

Joanne’s new book Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé, published in 2012, continues the story of Vianne, Anouk and the inhabitants of Lansquenet, and the response has been overwhelming to say the least. By July 2012 the book had reached Number 2 on the Sunday Times bestseller list. Of course, this is no surprise to Joanne’s many fans around the world, most of whom have devoured all her novels and can’t wait for the next one.  

For the benefit of those of you who have not yet become addicted, I list below Joanne’s books in the order in which they appeared. Rush your nearest bookstore and be prepared for late nights.

The Books

The Evil Seed: This is Joanne Harris's debut novel, a haunting, gothic vampire story. 'A dark, gothic romance filled with mystery, jealousy, and violence...a thrilling read.' Style.

Sleep Pale Sister: Joanne's second novel, written before she won worldwide recogniton. It is a blackly gothic evocation of Victorian artistic life. 'A hauntingly evocative laudanum-dream of a novel.' Time Out

Chocolat: When the exotic Vianne Rocher arrives in the French village of Lasquenet and opens a sinful chocolate boutique directly opposite the church at the start of Lent, the villagers are split into opposing camps,. 'Mouthwatering...A feelgood book of the first order.' Observer.

The Lollipop Shoes: It is now five years since Chocolat. Things have changed and Vianne now has another daughter, Rosette. Vianne has given up her mother's magical ways and is living under the name of Yanne Charbonneau. She and her two girls seek refuge and anonymity in the cobbled streets of Montmartre and live peacefully, if not happily, above their little chocolate shop. Then into their lives blows Zozie de l'Alba, the lady with the lollipop shoes, ruthless, devious and seductive. Yanne must decide whether to flee as she has done so many times before, or to confront her most dangerous enemy. 'This is Harris's best novel to date.' Financial Times.

Blueeyedboy: A dark tale of a poisonously dysfunctional family, a psychological thriller that makes creative use of all the disguise and mind games that are offered by life on the internet. 'Delivers an almighty twist in the tale...brilliantly atmospheric and at times heartbreaking.' The Times.

Blackberry Wine: A bottle of home-brewed wine left to him by a past friend provides the key to an old mystery and a terrible secret for Jay Mackintosh. 'Touching, funny and clever.' Daily Telegraph.

Five Quarters of the Orange: A tragic childhood in Occupied France comes back to haunt a secretive widow. 'Vastly enjoyable, utterly gripping.' The Times.

Coastliners: On a tiny Breton island, Mado returns after a ten-year absence to fight the tides and attempt to bring a dying community back to life. 'A writer of tremendous charm, who creates a winning blend of fairy-tale morality and gritty realism.' Independent.

Holy Fools: In seventeenth-century France, Juliette takes the veil, only to find that a man from her past returns to haunt her behind the convent walls. 'With this bold, inventive book, Harris confirms her position as one of Britain's most popular novelists.' Daily Mail.

Jigs & Reels: Joanne's first collection of short stories: sly, funny and sometimes provocative. 'Tantalising and suggestive, and leaves us wanting more.' Sunday Times.

Gentlemen & Players: At St Oswald's, a Northern boys' grammar school, a dark undercurrent stirs, of obsession and revenge. 'A gripping psychological thriller...with pace, wit and acute observation.' Daily Express.

Runemarks: This is Joanne Harris's first book written for a younger audience and is an epic tale set in the world of the Norse gods. 'If you liked Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, try this.' Heat.

Runelight: The second book of what Joanne hopes will turn out to be the Runemarks series, a fantasy set in a world that bears some similarity to our own, but assuming that our civilization had been shaped, not by the Romans, but by Viking invaders instead.

Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé (published in 2012). This book follows the characters in Chocolat and its sequel The Lollipop Shoes. Four years have passed since The Lollipop Shoes and Vianne and Roux are still living in Paris on their houseboat-chocolaterie. Anouk is now fifteen and on the cusp of young womanhood and Rosette is eight. On a changing summer wind comes a letter from the dead, calling them back to Lansquenet. After eight years they find the town much changed; the streets, the whitewashed church and disused tanneries along the river are the same, but in Les Marauds, a community of Moroccans has arisen, with women veiled in black. There is the scent of incense, spices, kif and mint tea, and facing the church, on the far side of the Tannes, a minaret.

Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé has now been published in the USA with the title Peaches for Father Francis and on 27 August 2012 Publishers Weekly chose this book as the Pick of the Week.

Non-fiction with Fran Warde

The French Kitchen: A Cookbook: A beautifully illustrated cookbook of Joanne Harris's French family recipes.

The French Market: More Recipes from a French Kitchen: A mouth-watering collection of recipes inspired by fresh, seasonal French market produce..

Website Watch

Joanne Harris

'If Joanne Harris didn't exist, someone would have to invent her...' Sunday Express

In Who’s Who Joanne listed her hobbies as: ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system’. She apparently also enjoys obfuscation, sleaze, rebellion, witchcraft, armed robbery, tea and biscuits – just the person to break up a boring dinner party. Given that she’s an expert in French cuisine, she can cook it as well.

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