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I imagine that most of the people who bought Joanne Harris' sixth novel did so on the strength of Chocolat. Harris seems to have realized that she has discovered a winning formula. Novels set in sleepy French villages appeal to a huge market: in Britain, France, and all over the world.

Five Quarters of The Orange is in the same vein as Chocolat, but Harris manages not to rewrite the same novel. Her style is pithy, and the story-line both engrossing and heart-warming.

The star of the novel is Framboise. We see her both as a child in Occupied France and as a widow in the 1990s. In both of these time-zones, Harris manages to evoke the atmosphere and people of the Loire village in which the story is set. From a rebellious childhood - making deals with German soldiers - to a mellow widowhood, the character of Framboise is painted entirely convincingly.

This is a novel full of secrets, which slowly unravel as you read - just like peeling the skin off an orange. We discover skeletons in closets, dark deeds and mysterious family rivalries. To say any more would be to ruin the beauty of this highly enjoyable novel.

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