Wow. Just... wow. I've just this moment finished reading this book, and it's blown my fucking socks off.
It tells the tale of Vianne Rocher, summoned back to Lansquenet after receiving a letter from the dead (those who've read Chocolat need only one guess to know who the letter was from), and finds many things changed. In Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, we are treated with nostalgia and some confusion. Who is the mysterious Inès Bencharki and why does everyone in Les Marauds have an opinion about her? Why does everyone think it was Francis Reynaud, the eponymous Monsieur le Curé, who started the fire in the school Inès was running, that used to be Vianne's old chocolaterie? Why do only a few people believe he didn't do it - including Joséphine and Vianne, his erstwhile 'enemies'?
With tales of Jinn from little Maya, invisible friends, a little magic, Muslim stories and peach jam, this story pans out brilliantly, with the pacing perfect, the tension in all the right places, and the ability to keep me reading till past three in the morning until I had no choice but to go to sleep. An old Muslim lady, Omi al-Djerba, reminded me (and Vianne) of Armande Voizin, whose house she stays in while she is in Lansquenet, and Mohammad Mahjoubi, the old Muslim priest whose authority has been challenged by his son, is like the Curé in so many ways. Why is everyone so taken with Karim Bencharki (apart from his good looks, which Vianne notices immediately), and why, when it's known that Inès is his sister, is there doubt among a few about who she really is?
Vianne knows she has been summoned to Lansquenet to help someone. But who? And why? Once she realises the truth, it's like a smack in the face. And it's perfect.
Once again, Joanne Harris has written a book featuring Vianne, Anouk and Roux, and of course her younger daughter Rosette (who first appeared in The Lollipop Shoes), and Reynaud the priest, who, in many ways, has not changed all that much in eight years - but who, in other ways, has changed a lot. In this book, we get to see his human side.
There are not many novels that actually make me cry so I can barely see the pages. This one did. Seriously, if you want to see how really good writing is done, read an expert. Read Joanne Harris.