Five Quarters of the Orange and A Peach for Father Francis.
Secrets, occupation and food, are at the center of two novels by
Joanne Harris, Five Quarters of the Orange and Peaches for Father Francis.
In an unusual twist, recipes in Five Quarters of the Orange unravel and
contain the secrets of the main character, Framboise and her family during the
Nazi Occupation. Food is both a pleasure and a torment, used for and against the French
populace in both the Black Market and in Nazi collaboration..
Harris writes, “For Five Quarters is a novel about betrayal; intimate betrayals, unspoken betrayals, betrayals within the family, the wider community and out into war-torn France.”
The benign title, Peaches for Father Francis, contains a different kind of “occupation,” the current crisis in much of Europe from fundamentalist Islam and the wish of some to enforce a separate community under Sharia law. Harris writes of house burning, suicide attempts, rape and riot. Reviewer Helen Rumbelow writes that this story contains “in microcosm the cultural anxiety of the West in the 21st century.” (Harris website, 2012),
Harris writes of a darker side of childhood in the troubled times of both novels. She told me, “All communities have secrets and there are two sides to a community with abuse at its heart. One is denial; the other, guilt.”
Children experience terrible things in both books and this scars them in adulthood. Children in many ways symbolize France, the location of both novels. In an email to me, Harris writes, “tensions and lies were simmering under the surface.”
Framboise, a bake and character in both novels, provides the focus on food and it is through food that she and we come to understand her neighbors in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Her food in these books, as well in some others of Joanne Harris, has a bit of magic in it. While food is used as a weapon, it can also be used to unite. Both books have a darkness in them but manage to end optimistically, with food having a role. Harris writes, “It’s about love, and how love can save us, and how it’s never too late to put the past behind us and to move on. From being a weapon, food becomes a link between past and present, reconciles opposing forces, and provides an element of continuity between the generations.”
Harris shares her Roasted Vegetables with Couscous from her cookbook, My French Kitchen. So fabulous- try it!