New Chocolat book + interview with author

Chocolat author Joanne Harris. Photo by Kyte Photography.
Chocolat author Joanne Harris. Photo by Kyte Photography.

The fourth novel in Joanne Harris’s Chocolat series has just come out in paperback. The writer spoke to Jane Hanks about her writing, her French/British background and the influence of France and her French family on her work.

Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley in 1964 with a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Medieval Languages at Cambridge and was a teacher for 15 years, during which time she published three novels, including Chocolat in 1999, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. 

It was filmed in various locations in France, including Beynac, Dordogne and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, Côte-d’Or. Since then she has written 15 more novels, two collections of short stories, two novellas, several screenplays, a musical and three cookbooks. Her books are published in over 50 countries and she has won several awards, and was made an MBE in 2013.

A still from the film adaptation of Chocolat.
A still from the film adaptation of Chocolat.

Influences and inspirations

Though she was brought up in Yorkshire, her first language was French: “My parents still always speak French at home, and I often speak French to my daughter. “I think being from two cultures makes for an interesting perspective on community and belonging. It also gave me access to two different traditions – that of the north of England, with its very strong cultural heritage, its folklore, literature and food, as well as that of Western France and Brittany. “I think it gave me a different attitude to language, a broader vocabulary and a wider range of influences from which to draw.

“I spent all my school holidays in France while I was growing up. I spent six or seven weeks every summer with my grandfather in his house on the island of Noirmoutier, which has given me some of my fondest childhood memories.” Chocolat was followed by The Lollipop Shoes, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé and now The Strawberry Thief. Four other books are also set in France, Coastliners, Five Quarters of the Orange, Holy Fools, and ...

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