The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris
I loved reading Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, my first book in the magical realism genre. I liked the author’s writing style, the subject she had chosen, the way she made me think deeply through the simplest of words, and the way the characters had been etched out. When I recently found a pre-loved copy of Chocolat‘s sequel, The Lollipop Shoes, at a bargain price, I couldn’t resist buying it. This one didn’t disappoint me, either.
The Lollipop Shoes begins with the spirited Vianne Rocher having given up all her magic and spiritedness, living a quiet, demure life as Yanne Charbonneau with her daughter Annie. She is an assistant at a cafe, which is not doing all that well. Yanne is trying to blend into the society, the residents of the little French village she is living in, and there is no trace of Vianne Rocher in her life. One fine day, a lady with beautiful, lollipop shoes walks into the cafe, setting into motion a series of changes in the lives of Yanne and her daughter.
Like Chocolat, I loved the way this book has been written, too. I loved the characters, the lovely descriptions of life in the French village and the cafe (it made me crave for some chocolate, again!), the way the story unfolds and the way it ends. I must say Joanne Harris is quite gifted a writer in this genre. I love how she writes simply, but quite effectively, choosing just the right words for each description. I love how the author creates characters that are very realistic and believable, and in spite of big doses of magic being included in the book, the story does not seem too far-fetched.
The Lollipop Shoes is a fat chunkster of a book, running into over 500 pages. That did put me off initially, but the book turned out to be immensely readable. In fact, I couldn’t put it down and kept reading it compulsively, finishing it in a little less than a week.
If you like reading magic realism and if you enjoyed Chocolat, I would highly recommend The Lollipop Shoes. It is just as good as Chocolat, if not better.
Now, I am craving to read the third installment of the Chocolat series – Peaches For Father Francis.
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
I have only recently forayed into the genre of historical fiction, and do not know much about what to expect from it. So, it was with almost no expectations that I picked up Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud recently. I have heard a lot about the author’s Nefertiti, but this was unheard of for me. I bought it because I have always been fascinated by stories of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and wanted to know how it came about. The book didn’t disappoint.
Madame Tussaud is set in France of the 1700s, when the French Revolution was in vogue. The protagonist, Marie Grosholtz, and her mother are Germans who have been living in France, with Marie’s uncle Curtius. It is Curtius who has taught Marie the art of making life-like models of people, scenes and things from wax, to a degree of perfection which has everyone spell-bound. Salon de Cire, a wax model exhibition-cum-cafe that Marie runs with Curtius is thriving, in spite of there being no money in France and its people not being able to afford even basic necessities of life like flour and bread.
The French are enraged with their current king, Louis XVI, and his wife, Marie Antoinette, thanks to the rumours that abound in the country about them. People are curious to know what the king and queen look like, and so, the royal couple’s visit to Marie’s salon and her subsequent making of life-size wax models of them works wonders for the salon. In time, Marie is appointed as tutor to Madame Elisabeth, the king’s sister, who is interested in learning how to make wax models. Will this affect Marie, considering more and more people are turning against the royal family? You need to read the book to find out.
I loved this book. I was hooked to it, from the first page to the last, and read it at every opportunity I could get. At no point did the book get boring, and that is quite a feat, because it is over 550 pages long.
As much as the book was spell-binding, it was heart-breaking as well. It was rather sad to see the shape the French Revolution took when it was in full swing, and the effects that it had on the commoners of France.
The book focuses more on the French Revolution and how it gradually unfolded than exclusively on Marie Grosholtz. I would have liked to know more about what Marie Grosholtz was like, even what Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were like. Their characters have not really been etched out in the book, and understandably so. The French Revolution is the backbone of the book. Honestly speaking, I didn’t like Marie Grosholtz’s character much – though she is immensely talented and strong-willed, she sounds extremely opportunistic and money-minded. Considering that I didn’t really like the heroine, I think the fact that I loved the book speaks volumes about the author’s writing style.
My only grouse with the book was that there is not much description of how, actually, the Madame Tussaud’s wax museum came into being, and how Marie’s life was after the creation of the museum. I would have loved to read that. Sadly, this information was suppressed to just a few pages at the very end of the book. Maybe, there is a sequel in the making?
I would highly recommend Madame Tussaud to lovers of historical fiction. It is, surely, an enchanting read.
I am waiting to lay my hands on Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti now.
What are you reading at the moment, folks?