It took me some time to realise that I had been reading a good number of novels by one particular author over the last few years. That I had accumulated a sizable stash on my shelves written by her.
Just recently I looked them out and found that some had disappeared – Jigs and Reels, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters – and concluded that possibly I had just given them away. Sometimes you do with books that you like.
But there were others still here – Chocolat, Lollipop Shoes, Peaches for Msr le Cure, Fools and more. Had this author outstripped my love of stories by Thomas Hardy when I was younger? It seemed so. Or perhaps, equal to.
I began to wonder what it was about her story-telling that I liked. Well, food was one thing, I like food and words together, recipes being a part of the magic of story-telling. I liked her main characters. I related to to being an outsider woman with one child living in a small place. I liked the French connection – the duality of Yorkshire and France/Europe as a part of the author’s background and the way she uses aspects of this to great effect with her imagination.
I think overall it is the diverse background, the understanding of women, recipes and parenthood.The primordial thing of having a certain kind of power that some may find threatening and react to -only because there is a difference between you and others.
But also an understanding that writing stories is a process which holds fear for the author. Never being very sure that what you have to tell is what someone, somewhere may want to hear. That you can tell a story which feels authentic, with words that lift that magic from the page and fill a person’s world at that moment in time. Perhaps they will always remember the story you told, perhaps the whole world will.
Here is a video of the TED talk Joanne Harris did at Manchester Uni. Do watch it right to the end. The conclusion is a very good one. The thread of life is there through stories and connects us all.