Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris

Last October, I got a Reading Survival Kit from the wonderful people at Books Are My Bag. It was an enormous box and it was fun of excellent stuff, including this novel. I’ve been reading it in the bath, mostly (can’t risk dropping library books in the bath, and hardbacks are difficult, so this lovely floppy paperback is ideal bath reading), over a couple of months, but I wanted to finish it so I took it away with me this week, on a trip to Manchester for a party and then to Wales, where I climbed Snowdon with my friend, Lauren.

Set in the Loire valley during the Occupation, and in the same village many years later, Five Quarters of the Orange follows Framboise, her siblings, friends and mother, as they struggle to survive under German rule. If you know me, you’ll know that WW2 books, especially featuring the French Resistance, are my jam. I love them. Which reminds me, it’s probably time to re-read Code Name Verity and cry my eyes out all over again. So I was delighted to find those elements in this, though it’s not a novel about the Resistance.

For the most part, I enjoyed it. Perhaps reading it over a couple of months wasn’t the best approach, but I found that too much was left unsaid. More than what was going on in the present day, I wanted to know more about Mirabelle, Framboise’s mother. And I know that that was the point – her unknowability, her mystery – but I found myself frustrated rather than teased that my questions weren’t answered, that I never found out what had happened to her to make her hate oranges so much, though I could guess. The twists of the story were clever and I didn’t guess them all, but that gap left me wanting in a way that left me disappointed. But then I did enjoy the mystery, the teasing threads of community stories that are just known rather than told, Framboise’s relentless pursuit of a huge pike in the Loire, her growing understanding of what was actually going on. But I did like it, I enjoyed reading it, and it passed the time pleasantly (with moments of absolute horror), and I’m grateful to BAMB for sending it to me.

Other categories that Five Quarters of the Orange fits into: a book with a number in the title, a book by a female author, a mystery or thriller, a book set in a different country

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3 thoughts on “Book challenge #13: A book at the bottom of your to-read list

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