Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Lollipop Shoes

Title- The Lollipop Shoes
Author- Joanne Harris
Place- London
Publisher- Doubleday
Date- 2007
Edition- 1st
Pages- 459
ISBN- 978-0-385-60948-7
Price- £17.99

Recommend- Yes, definitely 

We find Yanne and Annie living in Paris, above a little chocolate shop.  But they are not the characters that we left in Chocolat. For a start they are now joined by Yanne’s second daughter Rosette. At four she is still hasn’t uttered her first word, the inference being that she is in some way disabled. The previous lively Anouk has become sullen and secretive, and Yanne, once so full of life, has become faded and grey, the result of the responsibilities of motherhood.

At its most basic level this is a story about magic, on a deeper level its about identity, and relationships between individuals. The three central characters, Yanne, Anouk, and Zozie, are believable, if a little polarized. Each follows their own path on a journey of re and self discovery. Like life, they run into numerous problems along the way. Yanne stands in her own way, Anouk struggles to define herself as she attmepts to rekindle the magic the family have lost since the days of Lansequent, and Zozie, motivated by revenge, is so full of hate that she fails in her quest, and cannot comprehend the notions of love and trust.    

Special features- Check out all the different cover designs. It’s so cool how each one reflects a totally different style. You can see them all here.

becoming for a second the tousled elder sister…the glamorous rebel, Gauloise in hand…in whose impractical shoes I know she secretly longs to be.  This was the first of many descriptions that really struck a cord with me. It encapsulates so much of what the book is about.

Identity, a key theme throughout the book, Yanne who has lost hers, Annie who is seeking hers, and Zozie who neither has, nor (appears) to want hers. The shoes too make an appearance here. Like Chocolate, in Chocolate, Zozie’s lollipop shoes are a character in their own right (but that’s another conversation altogether). Ultimately it shows how easy it is to assume an identity and the power of appearance in influencing peoples’ assumptions.

I have absolutely no idea how to categorize this one. Obviously it’s fiction, and its about magic, but its also about love; romantic love, parental love, friendship, self definition and self acceptance.
As the story unfolds we see the world from three different perspectives: Yanne, Annie, and Zozie, and each perspective offers something new and different to the story. As the reader we are placed in an odd position, on the one hand we are privy to more information than the individual characters alone. On the other they have secrets. There are the obvious secrets, concerning their pasts and what not, but the fact they none have a settled identity means they are capable of surprising you, and a sense of suspense is maintained.  

It terms of a message, well there are heaps of things you can take from this book, you’ll have to read it and decide for yourself what is pertinent to you. The character I found myself most drawn to was Anouk. It always has been, even in Chocolat. In The Lollipop Shoes she occupies a more central role, and I found that her journey of self discover was more convincing than Harris’ portrayal Yannes’s heart ache as she watches Anouk grow and become distant from her.

I was initially reluctant to read The Lollipop shoes, I loved Chocolat and thought the way it ended was too perfect to ruin by finding out what happened next. HOWEVER I couldn’t have been more wrong. TLS is less a sequel and more a continuation of the story. If you, like me, have been putting off reading it banish the thought and get a copy! It’s fantastic.

Lovers of Harris will enjoy this book. Its not as magical as Chocolat the magic in TLS is more practical, or perhaps more subtle.  The setting too makes this book seem more real. It is set in the modern era, there are mobile phones and talk of fashionable clothes and immigration. A lot of this is due to the fact that TLS is set in Paris, rather than the quiet backwaters of France. As a result TLS provides less escapism, it is a story about fairy tales, rather than a fairytale in its own right. There is more about magic as an occult practice, at points quite detailed. This brings to the forefront the concept of good vs evil, and the role of the wicked witch.

Best Bits
The eyes are the windows of the soul…and the display window should be the eyes of the shop, gleaming with promise and delight.

desire demands a sacrifice

wind means change; and without change, the world will die. Our old friend the wind puts in an appearance but we learn a little more about the background to all the magic stuff.

she lifted her foot in a way that managed to be adolescent-gawky and heartbreakingly beautiful all at the same time. This is a well-worn image; the young girl on the brink of womanhood ‘playing’ with the props of an adult. However in this instance the scene is describes, not through the eyes of her mother as one would expect, but through the eyes of Zozie who, for Anouk, represents something between a friend and an elder sister- though at this point the reader has strong suspicions that she is something else entirely.  

rich as Croesus, dark as death.

This is one of those times that Harris hits the nail on the head and manages to put into words s universal truth that is so frequently ignored. Being sensible is no excuse not to have fun and live your life fully.

She lost a shoe. Fairy tales and folklore are rife throughout. This has the effect of making some scenes appear predictable. Far from detracting from the narrative it enriches it; like a secret language that knits everything together. Its comforting  and allows for things to be said without actually saying them. Anouk’s red riding hood cape is a hint that she will see through disguises, Zozie’s abandoned shoe, left in the snow Cinderella style, becomes solid evidence that everything she appeared to be was a fantasy. The Pied Piper of Hamlin makes various appearances throughout. Harris’ genius is in allowing each of her central characters to share their interpretations of these stories and in doing so we come to understand them more.

So... If you can get your hands on a copy definitely give it a read, its a brilliant book.

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