By Kyte Photography (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Spending an hour in the company of bestselling author Joanne Harris at the Sheldonian Theatre was, in a word, enchanting.
Harris, author of 13 books, including bestselling novel Chocolat, discussed her third part of the food trilogy, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé, with author and broadcaster Paul Blezard.
With an audience of around 50 people, all seated close to her, the event took on an intimate feel; helped by Harris with her welcoming smile and unassuming nature.
She began her talk by taking the audience back to the beginning; back 13 years ago to her invention of the characters in Chocolat which captured so many reader’s hearts. Yet Harris revealed that early on in her tale of Vianne Rocher, in the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, she was advised by those in the know, that her novel would never appeal to a mass market. How wrong they were.
After 10 bestsellers, including the Lollipop Shoes, the second in the food trilogy, Harris said she felt Vianne insisting on another story, bringing her character back to the village she said she would never return to.
A former teacher, Harris knows how to talk; eye contact, hand gestures, and an obvious passion for her characters, allowed the audience a glimpse into her wonderful and varied imagination.
Blezard ended asking Harris if she was, first and foremost, a storyteller, to which Harris readily agreed; pointing out that storytelling was a way to change perceptions and push boundaries. Harris, known for her semi-magical theme in the trilogy, said storytelling in itself was also a form of magic—in that her words, scrawled on paper, could affect a reader—make them laugh, make them cry, without ever having met them.
Harris was overall an intelligent, witty, and extremely funny orator. The only downside, that one hour in her company is just not enough.
Carly Schabowski, Oxford Brookes University