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Five Quarters of the Orange: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – January 2, 2007
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Harris has a challenging project here: to show the complicated, messy reality behind such seemingly simple terms as collaborator and Resistance. To the children, of course, these were mere abstractions: "We understood so little of it. Least of all the Resistance, that fabulous quasi-organization. Books and the television made it sound so focused in later years; but I remember none of that. Instead I remember a mad scramble in which rumor chased counter-rumor and drunkards in cafes spoke loudly against the new regime." The author's portrait of occupier and occupied living side by side is given texture by her trademark appreciation of all things French. Yes, some passages read like romantic, black-and-white postcards: "Reine's bicycle was smaller and more elegant, with high handlebars and a leather saddle. There was a bicycle basket across the handlebars in which she carried a flask of chicory coffee." But these simple pleasures, recorded with such adroitness, are precisely what give Framboise solace from the torment of her past. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Carol Clark, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The great strength of "Five Quarters of the Orange" is Harris' unflinching honesty about childhood--its capacity for treachery and cruelty. Graphic images of Framboise's war against the life of the nearby river underline this theme. After a village girl is bitten and killed by a venomous snake, Framboise nets a dozen snakes, crushes their skulls and leaves them to rot on the river banks.
At the heart of the novel, as in the novelist's early work "Chocolat," is a complicated relationship between mother and daughter. Framboise's mother Mirabelle mistakenly applies the same techniques to child rearing that she applies to growing fruit trees. Prune them severely and they will flower. She discovers too late that children don't respond well to constant scolding and deprivation.
Mirabelle is also plagued by olfactory hallucinations. Prior to her terrible migraines, she thinks she smells oranges. In scenes which make the book worth reading by themselves, Framboise gets revenge on her mother by planting a cut up orange near the stove so that the scent fills the house. These scenes of nine-year-old vindictiveness are where Harris reveals her true genius.
"Five Quarters of the Orange" isn't just another war novel, however. It's also a mystery.Read more ›
Five Quarters actually has several viewpoints, all from the same character, Framboise. We enter her mind as a nine year old child during the war in France and as a middle-aged widow returning unknown to her birthplace. Finally we enter her mind as a sixty-four year old woman making peace with the past and falling in love. This is a prodigious feat for any author to pull off. While not having reached all these ages yet I still received a strong feeling of what it would be like at that point in life.
The story itself is riveting and the book is one of the few that I have read recently in one sitting. There are villains and heroes, but neither are comic book characters. There are multiple nuances to every main character in the book so you cannot pigeonhole any one of them. The second world war and its effect on a small village in France, and specifically one family, is the main story. There is a mystery here to be unravelled slowly, and savored as the children savored the forbidden oranges of the title. While not exactly a story of the war its presence, in the form of German soldiers, is the catalyst for events that affect the village for generations.
A very enjoyable and thought provoking book. I cannot wait to read Ms. Harris' other novels.
On one level it's about the naive wartime collaboration of children and its consequences, but more importantly it's an exploration of mother-daughter relationships and how they shape the lives of multiple generations. This is a theme Harris first dipped into in Chocolat, but here the events and the emotions are sharper and more raw, and ultimately more revealing.
As with her two most recent novels, food and wine are woven into the story. The discovery by Framboise of her mother's cookbook, with its secrets and emotions never revealed during her mother's life, is the vehicle that forces her to confront and to put to rest the events that have dominated her life.
Harris continues to amaze, and Five Quarters is clearly her most fully realized writing. Though I found myself disliking Framboise more than a few times, the story has a depth and feeling that is hugely satisfying. Don't miss it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I felt I was right beside Boise the entire journey....Loved this book!Published 28 days ago by Kim M Galasso
The language in this book is as rich as the French countryside in which is it set. The characters are beautifully flawed and full of passion, each in his or her own way. Read morePublished 1 month ago by T. Gee
Not really my cup of tea. It started out good then got a little dark.Published 1 month ago by Joan McLeod
The title of Joanne Harris' novel FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE caused me to pick up the book and her luxurious writing and descriptions of food preparation caused me to read through... Read morePublished 4 months ago by FQH
I love this book. Joanne Harris is a master at developing characters and telling a story by anchoring the story in a place, which I happen to love. Read morePublished 5 months ago by teethetrav
Not a cut and paste review. I love her books. This was different and darker than her other books but worth the time. Quality writer.Published 5 months ago by Tony G