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The Girl With No Shadow    by Joanne Harris order for
Girl With No Shadow
by Joanne Harris
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having had no idea that a sequel to Joanne Harris's succulent Chocolat was in the works, The Girl With No Shadow came as a delightful surprise to me and I opened it with great anticipation, enjoying it just as much as the original. While the first novel was very much a luscious tale of pagan joy and Church versus Chocolat, this second - while still celebrating the sensual life - takes a hard look at the use and abuse of power.

Vianne Rocher's exuberant joy in life is greatly dimmed most of the way through The Girl With No Shadow, to the extent that her daughter Anouk (now known as Annie) tells a new-met acquaintance that Vianne Rocher has died. This story alternates between the points of view of three key participants - Vianne herself, now under the name of Yanne Charbonneau to avoid the interference of Kindly Ones (a priest and social worker) in her life; eleven-year-old Anouk/Annie who still shines brightly (and continues to be shadowed by Pantoufle) but is picked on at school because she lacks material things; and a new character, a scam artist, powerful wielder of magic, and identity thief. We meet the latter as she transforms herself from dowdy, shy school teacher Francoise Lavery to flamboyant Zozie de l'Alba of the enticing red shoes. She meets Annie, and covets her potential for magic.

As the story opens, we learn that Vianne - along with her newborn daughter Rosette and Anouk - fled Lansquenet and some mysterious crisis by the Loire (a puzzle that pulls readers through the story) to settle in Montmartre, 'an island rising out of the Paris fog.' Now, Rosette is four years old and has her own imaginary friend, a monkey named Bamboozle. She signs though she doesn't speak yet and is perceived by most as an odd child. They have settled in a flat above a (not very successful) chocolaterie, rented from wealthy Thierry le Tresset, who has a strong romantic interest in Madame Charbonneau. Vianne has made a great personal sacrifice for her children's security, but muses often on an old story her mother told her 'about a boy who sold his shadow to a peddler on the road for the gift of eternal life' - it unsettles her.

Ruthless Zozie decides to worm her way into Vianne's life - and Anouk's heart - and we know her intentions are not good, though in the short term, her presence is a catalyst for positive changes. It results in Vianne, the 'peddler of sweet dreams', making homemade chocolates again, in subtle improvements in their customers' lives, and in Anouk becoming happier in school - though she's also influenced by Zozie to 'ride the wind' and take vengeful action against others. Anouk makes a good friend of Jean-Loup, who has a heart condition and a passion for photography. Vianne's lover Roux shows up again in their lives. Suspense builds to a luscious Christmas Eve party that pulls in Vianne and Zozie's new built community (including someone from Vianne's far past), and a struggle between white witch and black for a child's soul.

While both Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow center on the ability of an individual to make magic and change people's lives, that power is wielded only with good intentions - though with unintended consequences - in the first novel, while the second reflects a more serious battle between good and evil, in which small hearth magics surprisingly win, with a little help from Pantoufle. Vianne still brews up her intoxicating chocolate drink, smelling 'of the black gold of the Maya and the red gold of the Aztec; of stone and dust and of a young girl with flowers in her hair and a cup of pulque in her hand.' Her writing shows that Joanne Harris knows just as much magic as her leads in The Girl With No Shadow, a sequel that will satisfy and satiate her myriad of fans.

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