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Coastliners    by Joanne Harris order for
by Joanne Harris
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Bestselling author Joanne Harris is back. If, like me, you're a devotee of her work, you'll have read Chocolat, Blackberry Wine and Five Quarters of the Orange. In Coastliners, Madeleine (Mado to her friends) Pardeau returns to Le Devin, the island of her birth, after living in Paris for ten years. Her mother, recently dead of emphysema, left this island on the coast of France (and Mado's father along with it) because she couldn't adjust to life in a small fishing village.

Mado returns to find a town wary of her, a father who has retreated into himself, and the foreigner Flynn who has enraptured the townspeople as well as her father. The village has been slowly dying, ever since a breakwater was erected in the next town to build up its beaches for tourist traffic. That breakwater has destroyed the fishing industry, and severely damaged the lobster and oyster gathering, of the island. Mado to the rescue. She devises a plan to save Le Devin.

The author has imbued her characters with very human traits that make for interesting interplay. The players on her stage are quirky, with wonderful nicknames. It's delightful to watch their relationships unfold. What a treat it is to open one of Harris's books. Her prose flows like the ocean of which she writes. The reader can almost smell the lingering odor of fish, taste the salt in the air, and feel the sand between the toes.

Storms are a regular occurrence but there is nothing mundane about the author's depiction of the effects of a bad storm. I found myself racing from page to page to discover the outcome of nature's fury, breath held as I read of the peril the villagers faced. Coastliners is a novel in which to become enmeshed. Once you start the book you can't stop with just one page. You must read the whole thing. Enjoy it, as you would a breath of fresh air or a glass of champagne.

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