The Girl with No Shadow (originally published as The Lollipop Shoes in the UK) by Joanne Harris is the magical new sequel to her bestselling novel Chocolat. It's a modern fairy tale for adults, complete with witches, evil and, of course, mouth-watering chocolate. It's also the story of identity theft - both real and psychological.
The Girl with No Shadow is set in Montmartre and takes place four years after Vianne Rocher (the main character of Chocolat) has left the small French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, where she nurtured her loyal customers with her enchanted chocolate treats.
Vianne has changed her name to Yanne in an effort to escape her past. She has abandoned her magic and embraced conventionality. She believes that if she blends in with the other people in her village, she will be able to keep her two daughters, Anouk and her baby half-sister, Rosette, safe from their past, where they escaped from a rigid local priest who saw her as a heretic and a danger to her children.
There is security in conformity, Vianne/Yanne believes, and she thinks she has left their former identities behind. Yanne is now dating a dull, wealthy man name Thierry Le Tresset. He is embarrassed by Rossette, whom he sees as being mentally impaired because she refuses to speak and communicates through an esoteric sign language. He puts up with Anouk's adolescent moodiness so can he be with Yanne. He believes he is in love with Yanne, but he doesn't truly know her. He only knows her as Yanne, not Vianne; he does not know she is a shadow of her former self.
Just when it seems Yanne has been lulled into marriage and complacency by Thierry, a strange and exciting women enters her life. Zozie de l'Alba is everything Vianne once was: colorful, creative, and free of inhibitions. She soon turns Vianne's shabby chocolaterie into a thriving business, all the while keeping her eyes on the prize - Anouk, whose nascent magical talent is just starting to show. Zozie is a thief, a collector of the lives of others, and she wants more than anything to steal Yanne's identity.
The story is told through three different voices and changing perspectives: Vianne/Yanne's, Annie/Anouk's, and Zozie's. This way of storytelling allows a reader to get into the heads of all of the main characters, but it can be confusing to readers who haven't read Chocolat. There are many references to characters from the previous novel; even Annie's imaginary friend, a rabbit named Pantoufle, enters the story with little introduction.
But it's clear that Joanne Harris' prose and storytelling gifts will guide a patient reader to a satisfying end. The Girl with No Shadow is worth reading twice; Harris' poetic novel can be read on many different layers. Her prose is like the rare, specialty chocolate that's not mass-produced. It is a novel meant to be treasured and savored.