Chocolat summary

CHOCOLAT: Vianne Rocher, a chocolate-maker and sometime witch, arrives with her six-year-old daughter Anouk in the village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, right at the beginning of Lent. Francis Reynaud, the local priest, disapproves of her instantly, especially when it becomes clear that she is planning to open a chocolate shop right opposite the church. Her arrival polarizes the villagers, some taking the side of Reynaud and abstinence, some preferring Vianne’s more sympathetic approach. As Vianne’s magic begins to work, old feuds are resolved, family disputes are aired, Josephine Muscat, the wife of the abusive cafe-owner, finds the courage to leave her husband and the elderly and cantankerous Armande Voizin, who is going blind from diabetes, rediscovers her joie-de-vivre and reconnects with her grandson, Luc.

When Vianne befriends a group of travellers from the river – people who traditionally have been viewed with suspicion by Reynaud – the priest sees this as part of Vianne’s pernicious influence. With the help of Josephine’s husband, Jean-Marie Muscat, he hatches a plan to sabotage the chocolaterie. But  Jean-Marie goes too far, and sets fire to the travellers’ camp. No lives are lost, but Vianne’s friend Roux’s boat is destroyed, and we learn that Reynaud is haunted by a dark episode from his past, in which he himself caused the deaths of two travellers in similar circumstances. Armande organizes a lavish celebration to celebrate her seventieth birthday, after which she suffers a hyperglycaemic episode and is found dead in the morning. Reynaud blames Vianne, who begins to fear that – in spite of a budding sexual relationship with Roux – she will not be able to settle permanently in Lansquenet, and will have to take Anouk back on the road, as she has many times before.

Meanwhile Reynaud is still making plans to undermine Vianne, culminating with an attempt to sabotage the opening of her Easter chocolate festival. He breaks into her shop, but succumbs to temptation, and  is found in the morning, gorged on chocolates, having gone to sleep in the window display.

The chocolate festival goes ahead, and is a big success. Reynaud is chastened by his experience. Vianne, feeling the call of the wind that has always been her call to move on, hopes to stay in the village, but whether she does or not is left ambiguous.