The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris was a delightful read. I haven’t read any Joanne Harris books for a long time, so reading this one felt a bit like sitting down with a long lost friend. When most people think of books by Joanne Harris, they think of her bestselling book Chocolat. Well, The Strawberry Thief returns to that same world years later. I didn’t realise there were a couple of other books in this series – which I haven’t read – but I honestly feel you can jump straight to this book if you like.
Vianne Rocher still runs a magical chocolate shop in a small French village. Her daughter Anouk is now twenty-one and living in Paris with her boyfriend. But Vianne has another daughter, sixteen-year-old Rosette, her special child.
Rosette is different from other teenagers her age. She doesn’t talk, is childlike and is likely to never grow up. She has an imaginary friend, draws people in animal form and has magic that can cause the wind to shake trees and cause mischief.
While other villagers pity Vianne, she is happy having a daughter who will never leave her. But when the old florist Narcisse dies, leaving a parcel of woodland with wild strawberries to Rosette, it sets off a chain of events in the village.
Soon Narcisse’s scheming daughter moves into the village intent on getting her hands on the valuable land. Then the village priest Reynaud is drawn into the drama when he is made executor of Narcisse’s will and is given his handwritten confession. Lastly, a mysterious woman opens up a new shop in the village, worrying Vianne with her sway over the town’s people.
The Strawberry Thief is full of magic, mystery and secrets. And like the plot, the writing was just as magical. I love Joanne Harris’s way of writing. It evokes all the senses. She writes about food in a way that makes you drool. She writes about magic in, well, a magical way. This story is told from a few different perspectives and my favourite was Rosette’s point-of-view. It was funny and wondrous.
While you can read this as a standalone novel, I recommend reading Chocolat first. I wish I had done this because I couldn’t remember much from reading this years ago.
You know you’re in the hands of a gifted storyteller when the first page sucks you into the story. Joanne Harris makes putting words on a page look so effortless, but clearly that’s because she’s a master of the craft.
Verdict: A magical, engrossing tale by an extraordinary writer.
Have you read any books by Joanne Harris?