Synopsis: The book revolves around the life of Framboise Dartigen
Set in both present day France and during the German occupation. Framboise returns to her childhood home to set up a restaurant. Using the deliciousrecipes left to her by her mother whose wartime actions meant the family left under a cloud. Hiding her identity , particularly when professional critics sing the praises of her food, leading to unwelcome advances from her children and interest in the town about who the newcomer is? She remembers her difficult relationship with her mother and two siblings as well as her dangerous friendship with a young German officer.
Full disclosure, I could have included any number of Joanne Harris books on this list, but I found this to be the one that gave me the most immersive reading experience. The story is beautifully evocative of a childhood in a rural town during the German occupation. Framboise is a spiky, interesting and lonely child and the cruel trick she plays that forms the basis of the title is indicative of the way that her isolation and lack of understanding of her Mother's treatment of her and her siblings, leads to far reaching and tragic events.
Food as ever plays a massive part in the power of the story.We can taste the sticky sweet juice of oranges on our tongues and the slow melt of the bitter chocolate that is the means that the children are befriended and persuaded to have loose lips about friends and neighbours. The recipes her mother collected are precious and guarded with deliberateness.
This is a story about a need for acceptance and personal forgiveness. The events of her childhood are shocking and dark and have coloured her life into middle age. When she begins to process them with the clarity of hindsight in the place redolent with blame and recrimination, she learns to open herself up enough to allow herself to finally heal and learn from the past to inform the future and live a happier life.
Why it is in my top twenty?
It is a beautifully written book just heaped with elements to pique the senses and the central stories are haunting and dark and yet ultimately it ends on a hopeful note. The wartime setting is a wonderful foundation for the rich plot.