Last Tuesday, nominated book award author Joanne Harris swiftly paid a visit to discuss the forth novel in the ‘Chocolat’ series, ‘The Strawberry Thief’. The theme of chocolate is present throughout the series, and opens by telling the story of a woman who establishes her own chocolate shop in a small village at the beginning of lent. Consequently, this proves to be provoking, with the Catholic Church community expressing their disapproval. From here, the journey unfolds, and in the most recent title, the shop owner builds her enterprise by renovating a previous floristry business into another chocolatier, with mysteries occurring along the way.
For those unfamiliar with Harris’ work, she explained how her novels are ‘set in the real world’ but how there are ‘elements of magic in there’ that are ‘beyond the mundane’. Her series includes myth, folklore, and fairy-tale aspects, with strange apparitions occurring. Having read her novels, Mel commented on how there was ‘such substance and magic in the characters’ involved in the series.
In addition to the involvement of magic, senses are included, with the smell of chocolate being illustrated. The author spoke of how ‘colour and scent were always quite important’ to her to include in her writing, and how she has a preference to write rather ‘immersive literature’. Experiencing synaesthesia herself, meaning she has the bizarre ability to smell colours, when it comes to her writing, senses are paramount to Harris.
As I was eager, having not read the book beforehand, to discover why the author had chosen the particular title ‘Strawberry Thief’ for her novel, once I asked Harris this question, she explained it’s dual purposes. Firstly, there is an actual strawberry field included in the book, and also the author took inspiration from the William Morris Strawberry Thief tapestry pattern (see image included). An intriguing title, to say the least.
To summarise, the event was a real success, with 164 attending this event. The discussion between Mel and the author was very engaging, with an opportunity to ask questions and purchase signed books at the end. with good feedback given afterwards from audience members. As tempting as chocolate, Harris’ latest offering is a sweetly satisfying, scent-sational read!