When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognise her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realise that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that summer of her ninth year.
Five Quarters of the Orange centres around the character of Framboise Dartigen, and the story splits itself between German-occupied France during WWII and the present day. After years of absence, Framboise returns to the small village of Les Laveuses and takes up residence once again in her childhood home, but under a different name. There is a secret she has carried with her from childhood which ultimately forced her to leave the village behind, and she tries with all her might to prevent any of the locals from discovering her true identity.
It is a very interesting, multi-layered story that sucks you right in and refuses to let go until the story’s finished. Harris’ style of writing always has an almost magical element to it, and manages to fuse different components of a story together beautifully. References to food are abundant, and stories related to particular recipes or even just particular smells are used to bring back vivid childhood memories in a way that most people can probably relate to. Smell and taste are such powerful senses, and they often evoke the most intense of memories in people, which Harris manages to incorporate perfectly into her story.
To me, the jumping back and forth between the past and the present wasn’t at all confusing, which is probably due to the clear style of writing. There was never any confusion about which timeframe I was actually reading. This style gives the story an extra dimension in my opinion, and enhances the air of mystery around the story because it keeps the reader guessing about what’s really going on.
After all the build-up around this mysterious occurrence that supposedly happened in Framboise’s childhood, I was perhaps expecting a slightly more complex ending, but overall the story was a great read. I really enjoyed reading it, and I think anyone who’s read a Joanne Harris book before will, too.