By November 11, 2009 0 Comments Read More →


I just walked out of our monthly staff readers advisory session. Our category this month was Historicals and our choice was the very challenging novel by Joanne Harris, Five Quarters of the Orange (Morrow, 2001).

I love this type of novel. Its structure is such that you jump from the present into the past. Veiled hints eventually become fully blown scenes while foreshadowed consequences are explained if you wait patiently.

The characters in this novel are all monsters of one sort or another. Each holds a secret for a tragedy and each is culpable in one way or another. The main character, Framboise Simon, returns to the small French village where she lived during WWII anonymously because she wants to resuscitate her mother’s old farm and open a restaurant. The fact that Framboise has to disguise herself because of an incident in WWII should be a reason to stay away. Instead, it leads to the question of why a character would place herself in such danger of having her long lost role in a massacre revealed.

That may be one of the main themes of the book but other themes include the role of family in a person’s life, the loyalty a person should show to friends and family and the nature of accountability in a world where it is just too easy to cut and run.

This book is magnificently written and incorporates food into almost every page. It reminds me of The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood or The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield with the way it incorporates an older woman relating a tragic story. I would recommend this book to your book group if you want a fictional memoir that will disturb your sense of order.  You can get some suggested questions at Reading Group Guides.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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