Monday, 24 December 2007

Magic and The Lollipop Shoes

The Lollipop Shoes, by Joanne Harris, is a magical book. It has magic flung over it like fairy-dust and it pulls you into its world of a reality behind the real from the first sentence.

It is a relatively little known fact that, over the course of a single year, about twenty million letters are delivered to the dead.

And it is in this world of the dead-but-still-alive, the assumed identity, the life behind the life that The Lollipop shoes takes place. Vianne Rocher is dead – Anouk, her daughter, tells us so – but Yanne Charbonneau has taken her place. Anouk has become Annie but, she tells us, her real friends call her Nanou. Except she has no friends bar her real/imaginary rabbit Pantoufle.

And Zozie De l’Alba - formerly Francoise Lavery and countless other women - has taken on a new life in the Place des Faux-Monnayeurs where nothing – least of all her – is what it seems. The very name of the square – the faux-monnayeurs – means counterfeiter or forger and that is what both Zozie de l’Alba and Vianne/Yanne are. Both, for reasons of their own, are hiding their real identity, their true history. They are making their life up as they go along and that, too, is a kind of magic.

Zozie confesses to having dabbled in every kind of magic there is and Yanne, too, has cantrips for every occasion, runes for luck and skill with the Tarot. But it is not just this magic that the book is full of. Kate Mosse’s Sepulchre which I read recently was full of Tarot-lore - and even demons and the occult - but stopped short of being magical in the way that the Lollipop Shoes is. Because Joanne Harris is a genius at infusing the mundane with the magical. Who but she would have thought of describing shoes like this:

Those fabulous luminous high-heeled shoes in lipstick, candy-cane, lollipop red, gleaming like treasure on the bare cobbled street.

Gleaming like treasure. Yes! All the world gleams like treasure in the world of Joanne Harris’s books. It’s one of the things which thrills me about her writing. In the work of most authors, description merely serves to illustrate character or to provide a background of resonance against which things happen. In Joanne Harris’s books, description is very much a highlight – she sets the world ablaze with her words without ever descending to purple prose. I love the way she makes me see the world as if I’ve never really looked at it before and – every time I read one of her books, I vow never again to walk down the street without noticing things with all my senses.

Christmas, however religious you are or aren’t, is infused with dollops of magic and the sense of heightened expectation just makes it more so. If you want to immerse yourself in a magic which won’t make you sick from too much chocolate or too much saccharine on the TV, I cannot recommend The Lollipop Shoes too highly. I’m only a quarter of the way through the book and already, I believe….
Merry Christmas everybody!

1 comment:

Simon Key said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Hope it's full of all your favourite things!
Simon and Tim