Five Quarters of the Orange

Five Quarters of the Orange
by: Joanne Harris

Challenges: What's in a Name?

Published: 2001

# of pages: 307

I randomly chose this from a recommended books list on because it has a food in its title and works for the What's in a Name? 3 challenges. It wasn't until I started reading it that I noticed it's by the "New York Times bestselling author of Chocolat." I read Chocolat a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. Once I noticed Five Quarters of the Orange is by the same author, I saw the similarities between this novel and Chocolat. The similarities are very obvious at the beginning (single mother who loves to cook - especially desserts, opens her own cafe in a small French town, is mysterious, befriends an "outcast" man....). However, the story quickly becomes its own and the reader is soon wrapped up in the mystery that the main character, Framboise, tells.

The story is about Framboise, a woman in her 60s who returns to the town of her childhood. The only thing is - no one knows its her. She keeps her identity a secret as she lives in the house she grew up in, restores the farm, and opens her own cafe in town. Framboise tells the story of her childhood and the story of her more recent past after she returns to her childhood home. The reader begins to see how the two time lines connect and exactly why Framboise is keeping her name and personal history a secret.

Framboise grew up with her widowed mother (Framboise's father was killed in WWII), her brother Cassis, and her sister Reine-Claude. Framboise's mother loves cooking. And that may just be the only thing she loves in Framboise's childish eyes. The mother suffers debilitating headaches that are preceded by the smell of oranges. Oranges are the one thing she fears and Framboise picks up on this and uses it against her mother at the age of 9.

The child Framboise is feisty, wild, confused, and bitter. She's starting to grow up and doesn't have any help. She turns to a German man, one of many soldiers occupying the town. She is influenced and guided by him to help spy on the residents of the town. She receives gifts for her work (such as oranges), but the most valuable gift he gives her is what she perceives as friendship.

The woman Framboise is hard working and open minded. She is afraid the past will take over, but is determined to stay in control. Her daughters no longer live with her and she wants more than anything to protect them from the dark secrets of her past. One of the things later in the book that is similar to Chocolat is the threat of her cafe's business being taken away. Not because she is a "heathen," but because someone has found out her secret...

I didn't think I'd enjoy this at first, even though it seemed similar to Chocolat. It actually frustrates me to read books that are really similar. However, this had more "action" in it. More mystery. It's darker than Chocolat. I recommend this to adults who are fans of Harris' other novels, who enjoy "dramatic mysteries," WWII novels, historical fiction.... There's some bad language, so it may not be appropriate for young adults, but it isn't enough to ruin the novel and make it unenjoyable for adults.

Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I'd be happy to post yours as well.

1 comment:

Sam Li said...

I've read Joanne Harris' food trilogy, and Five Quarters of the Orange is the best~

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