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Chocolat: the book

2002-01-14 04:27:54+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

After my mixed comments on Chocolate, the movie, I'd heard great things about the book. Just finished reading it, and... I so like the conclusions, I so like the basic structure of the story, but I feel like the book was written completely on the nose. There wasn't enough sympathetic about Reynaud, he was a caricature who needed more depth to be truly evil. There are great authors, authors like Robertson Davies, that I can read over and over again. The core story had that possibilities, but in the end Joanne Harris doesn't make Chocolat[Wiki] a book I'm likely to revisit.

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:26+00 by: pharm

Coincidentally, I read the book a week or so ago, and came to exactly the same conclusions. I wondered if she wasn't sure whether to make Reynaud purely 'evil' or himself a product of his past (perhaps with 'evil' working through him?). Hence the characterisation fell between these two stools and never really resolved itself into a real character for me.

When you say that,"the book was completely on the nose," that's not an idiom I'm familiar with, do you mean that you felt it led the reader around by the nose?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:27+00 by: Dan Lyke

It's a term I picked up from Pixar and the McKee screenwriting class. Writing "on the nose" means you're describing the character's meaning rather than letting the action tell the story.

So, yeah, essentially what you said.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:27+00 by: TC

Ah c'mon guys. An antagonist doesn't have to be "evil" for a good story. Dan I've got it on DVD and thought they did a decent version of Comte Reynaud as a sympathetic antagonist as well as interesting side story (wife & secretary) it has "the making of" and once you get past the usual Miramax pretentions you can see they a just trying to tell a good story. Knowing the constraints of making a film do you feel Reynaud was still too shallow? or is this just comment about the book?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:28+00 by: Dan Lyke

In fact, I believe that the story would have been much more interesting had Reynaud not been as evil. If he'd been a moderately sympathetic guy who, at his core, thought he was doing good for the town, and if Harris had been able to capture that, rather than relying on the cop-out that he was compensating for his evil past, there's a chance I'd want to start at page 1 again.

And while the book did make Vianne's motivations stronger, the constant use of flashbacks is a crutch that distracted from the telling.

And Armande's death was just way[Wiki] too cliché. As the book went on I kept thinking "I know how this ends, but that's just too... too... no, she's got to be able to redeem this somehow."

Oh well, as I said, I like the story, but the storytelling, in both the movie and the book, seemed pretty weak.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:28+00 by: other_todd

Eh. I didn't comment on the movie because I had read the book first and therefore refused to see the movie; my thought was, "They're going to shy away from showing any of the really good bits, and if they do try to show them, they'll screw them up." You are, of course, free to disagree if you've seen it; I'm just explaining why I won't.

I thought the book was mostly a parable about the power of sex and physical lusts in general, and I don't expect parables to have three-dimensional characters; imagine it as an old-fashioned morality tale except that all the parts are being played by the opposite people; in this book the deviants are the good guys.

That having been said, I believe the priest in the book - I don't remember the character names, and I don't know which ones they changed in the film - is, ironically, the only fully-fleshed character, save perhaps the old woman. He is certainly the only character whose head we're allowed to get into to any large degree, to see WHY he does what he does and just how screwed up he really is. I mean, the heroine is largely a cipher by comparison.