By Joanne Harris
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780060198121, 368pp.)
Publication Date: September 2002
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Joanne Harris writes fiction that engages every one of the senses: reviewers called Chocolat "delectable" and Five Quarters of the Orange "sweet and powerful." In her new novel, she takes readers to a tiny French island where you can almost taste the salt on your lips.
The island, called Le Devin, is shaped somewhat like a sleeping woman. At her head is the village of Les Salants, while the more prosperous village of La Houssiniere lies at her feet. You could walk between the towns in an hour, but they could not feel further apart, for between them lie years of animosity.
The townspeople of Les Salants say that if you kiss the feet of their patron saint and spit three times, something you've lost will come back to you. And so Madeleine, who grew up on the island, returns after an absence of ten years spent in Paris. She is haunted by this place, and has never been able to feel at home anywhere else.
But when she arrives, she will find that her father -- who once built fishing boats that fueled the town's livelihood -- has become even more silent than ever, withdrawing almost completely into an interior world. And his decline seems reflected in the town itself, for when the only beach in Les Salants washed away, all tourism drifted back to La Houssiniere.
Madeleine herself has been adrift for a long time, yet almost against her will she soon finds herself united with the village's other lost souls is a struggle for survival and salvation.