Title: Five Quarters of the Orange

Author: Joanne Harris

Copyright: 2007, Harper Perennial

ISBN: 0061214604

Pages: 336

Date completed: 6/4/11


This is a book about a woman who came of age in France during World War II.  She was a girl of about 9 when the war started, although most of the story is told from her vantage point as a 65 year-old-woman who has returned to her childhood home. 

I don’t think this book is categorized as a mystery, although it should be.  However, it is not a story that follows the standard mystery format.  As I read, it small pieces of the mystery of our main character (Framboise Simon) are revealed, and I had that nagging sense that I wasn’t going to be able to figure it out until it was eventually spelled out for me by the author.  I was right.  I didn’t see the plot twist coming. 

Framboise Simon is raised by a mother who doesn’t appear to have any love or connection to her children.  Plagued by migraine headaches that cause her to smell oranges, she spends most of her time locked in her bedroom, leaving Framboise and her siblings to raise themselves.  After befriending a German soldier, Framboise feels like she has found her place in the world. 

As an old woman, Framboise returns to her childhood home and lives a quiet life running a café out of her home.  She is known throughout the countryside for having some of the best food, in such humble surroundings.  Framboise is using her mother’s recipes, and finds, through her hand-written notebook, the real story of her mother’s life.