‘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.
I’ve heard the old adage time and time again, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but I really couldn’t help myself when I first saw the cover to ‘The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris’. So don’t make the same mistake that I did and assume that this is another ‘chick flick’, ‘candy floss’ girl read. Because I think Jenny Colgan has been successful in writing a novel with a bit more substance.
The dual-narrative following Anna today and Claire in the 1970s works really well, but I don’t think the reader gets to appreciate it properly until about a third of the way through the narrative. This takes me back to my first point that the author has written a girly novel with a bit of substance. It took me a while to get into the book because I was expecting stereotypical characters from girly novels. Anna and Claire are not those characters and the flashbacks during the story let you piece together parallels with their stories, which I think you only really get to appreciate towards the end of the novel. As a result, you are left still thinking about the characters and their stories, after you have finished reading.
The setting in Paris is delightful. Having visited the city earlier this year, it was lovely to read such vivid descriptions of the place and people, and even if you haven’t visited, the author really brings to life the Parisien atmosphere and the delights of chocolate shops which, believe me, are as delicious and exquisite as she describes.
Whilst the novel does become a little predictable as the story progresses and the reader begins to recognise the parallels in the dual-narratives, by this point the connection you have with the characters leaves you wanting there to be a happy ending for all involved. In this sense the typical “girl meets boy” formula is a bit of a let down to the novel because you know where the story is going. However, I found the ending beautifully written and actually had to re-read it several times to get the full essence of what was happening.
This is an enjoyable book with likeable character and lovely descriptions of Paris. Once you have got into the story and accepted this is a little different to typical women’s fiction, I think you will appreciate that the author is trying to do something a little different. Failing that, you will find yourself wanting to go for the chocolate cupboard each time you read a little bit more.