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Five Quarters of the Orange Paperback – June 4, 2002

4.2 out of 5 stars 200 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris returns to the small-town, postwar France of Chocolat. This time she follows the fortunes of Framboise Dartigan, named for a raspberry but with the disposition of, well, a lemon. The proprietor of a café in a rustic village, this crabby old lady recalls the days of her childhood, which coincided with the German occupation. Back then, she and her brother and sister traded on the black market with the Germans, developing a friendship with a charismatic young soldier named Tomas. This intrigue provided a distraction from their grim home life--their father was killed in the war and their mother was a secretive, troubled woman. Yet their relationship with Tomas led to a violent series of events that still torment the aging Framboise.

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 the Digital edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Framboise Dartigen relates this story from her point of view as a nine-year-old and as a woman in her 60s. She spent her childhood in a Nazi-occupied French village with her widowed mother and siblings. Knowing that the scent of oranges brought on her mother's severe migraines, Framboise was clever enough or devious enough to hoard orange peel for her own advantage. During their unsupervised play, the children met a young Nazi soldier and were captivated by his charm and the black-market gifts that he gave them. Years later, Framboise, now a widow herself, returns to the village on a quest for the truth about her family's role in a tragic event for which her mother bore the blame and was forced by the townspeople to flee. Framboise inherited her mother's journal, and soon learns that the past and the present are intertwined. Harris has woven a dark, complex story of a dysfunctional family in stressful times. As in the author's Chocolat (Viking, 2000), mother and, later, daughter are gifted cooks whose love of food and cooking shows in the wonderful descriptions of bread, cake, fruit, wine, olives, etc. A picture of life in an occupied territory emerges in which collaborators, resisters, enemies, friends, and family members live in the same area, going about their daily routines. Harris's fans will not be disappointed; her attention to detail, vivid description, and strong characterization are all in this book, too.

Carol Clark, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Digital edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060958022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060958022
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #721,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
War is hell, as we all know, but the last word on that still hasn't been said. Now Joanne Harris gives us a book that exposes the ugliness of war from the viewpoint of three neglected children, living in a German-occupied French village during World War II. In "Five Quarters of the Orange," narrator Framboise Dartigen unfolds a chilling tale in which she and her two siblings find themselves collaborating with Nazis, trading secrets about their neighbors for chocolate and comic books.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Not since To Kill a Mockingbird have I read such an effective book written from a child's viewpoint. Five Quarters not only captures this age but this age in a certain time and place. You can almost smell the lavender and mint. You can almost taste the mouth-watering recipes Framboise and her mother prepare.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Harris' newest novel is darker and more complex than either Chocolat or Blackberry Wine. The story--the reminiscences of elderly, embittered Framboise Dartigan--explores the events that shaped her childhood and her village during the German occupation of France.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris contained a mystery that kept me reading until I finished the book in just 3 nights. Harris wrote the book like the main character Framboise was just sitting around telling a childhood story to a friend over coffee. Reading the story, I felt comfortable as "Framboise's friend" and enjoyed her tale of adolescence. In the beginning of the story, Framboise casually tells us "I know, I know. You want me to get to the point... It has taken me fifty-five years to begin. At least let me do it in my own way." Harris' use of details and descriptions helped to paint of vivid picture in my mind of Framboise's childhood. I liked the way Harris described Framboise's older sister Reine-Claude in comparison to Framboise, "At twelve, my sister has already ripened. Soft and sweet as dark honey, with amber eyes and autumn hair... next to her I looked like a frog, my mother told me, an ugly skinny little frog with my wide sullen mouth and my big hands and big feet." The book describes the conflict of mother and daughter relationships. Harris shows that no matter how badly we don't want to end up like our parents, we can't help but to inherit some of their qualities. Framboise's mother tells her nine year old daughter "Hard as nails... I used to be like that...I always wanted to fight everybody too." When the older Framboise is stressing about her declining business while her daughter and granddaughter were departing from their summer visit, "I could see in her eyes that she felt I was unreasonable, but I could not find enough warmth in my heart to tell her what I felt... a sudden terror overwhelmed me. I was behaving like my mother... Stern and impassive, but secretly filled with fears and insecurities. I wanted to reach out to my daughter... but somehow I couldn't.Read more ›
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