This novel came out in the US under the name THE GIRL WITH NO SHADOW. This often happens with American books, and authors don’t usually have much say in the process. Either way, enjoy the ride, and here are some things that might help you get the most from your discussion….
The author draws strongly from Jungian archetypes in her work, especially in this novel. Find out more about Jung’s theory of archetypes in this handy guide….
Vianne youngest daughter, Rosette, is believed by some to have cri-du-chat syndrome. Find out about the condition here.
In this book, chocolate is as much about conflict as pleasure. Find out about the history of the Aztec chocolate wars here.
The novel is set in the Paris region of Montmartre, which has often been descibed as “a village.” Take a walk there here…
Want to know what Vianne puts in her hot chocolate? Here’s the recipe, from my first cookbook, THE FRENCH KITCHEN…
Questions for Group Discussion.
- Whereas CHOCOLAT was a book about joy, this is largely a book about fear. How much has Vianne changed in six years, and why do you think that happened?
- Vianne accepts to settle down and become anonymous for the sake of her children. Why? Do you think this would ever have worked?
- To Vianne, her magic is dangerous as well as joyous. What is she afraid of? Where does this fear come from?
- Anouk is growing up, and needs more than her mother can give her. What do you think Anouk sees in Zozie de l’Alba? Why is she so immediately drawn to her?
- Zozie appears in Vianne’s life at just the right time, and does just the right things. In what way are the two women alike? What are the principal differences?
- Zozie is an expert in creating different personae to deal with different situations. How do you adapt your image and behaviour to suit your circumstances and interactions?
- Rosette is a mysterious character in a number of ways. Why do think the author chose to give Vianne a neurodivergent daughter?
- Vianne’s fearfulness and Zozie’s boldness are often in direct opposition in this novel. What do you think the author was trying to say about character, and how far we can change ours to suit others?
- Place can be as important as character when it comes to building a novel. Why do you think the author chose to set this story in Paris instead of the rural Southwest?
- While CHOCOLAT takes place during Lent, the bulk of this story happens between Hallowe’en and Christmas. Why do you think this is significant?
- The story is scattered with South American folkloric references. Why do you think these are important, given the theme of chocolate?
- Zozie is charm personified, and yet she is essentially heartless. Do your feelings about her change as you find out more about her?
- Anouk is especially at risk from Zozie. Why do you think this is?
- Magic is an important theme in these books. What do you think it means to Vianne? To Anouk? To Zozie?
- One of the themes running through these books is that magic is accessible to anyone. What are the sources of magic in your life? How do they manifest?
- The two men in Vianne’s life are very different characters. Why do you think this is? What does she see in both of them?
- Identity – the loss of it, the borrowing of it, the changing, building and faking of it – is a major theme in this book. How does the author convey this? What role does it play?
- Even though the setting is urban and cosmopolitan, there’s still a strong suggestion that belonging matters in this community. In what way does the author bring out this theme? Why?
- Two characters in this novel have eating disorders. Why do you think the author chose to include them, and what role do they play in the story?
- In your opinion, in what way does Vianne’s tracing of her birth mother help give her fears closure? Where do you think she will go from here?