I’ve just finished re-reading Five Quarters of the Orange – I remember being really interested in it the first time I read it because I’d worked with a woman who was allergic to the colour orange. She claimed it always made her nauseous and headachey. I have no idea why – perhaps it was the vibrations given off by the wavelength of the colour – perhaps it was an unfortunate but suppressed memory.
So when I found one of the characters in the book noticed the smell of oranges as a symptom of the onset of migrane I was intrigued. I thought I might’ve been able to get some insight into my colleague’s issues.
I was also interested in the pike catching parts of the story. I’ve seen pike lurking in a castle moat in Denmark, and I took the chance to eat them there also.
Ultimately, I didn’t gather much information in either respect and although I really enjoyed the book as a light read I felt unsatisfied in the end. It’s not that the story doesn’t have legs, it’s the characters don’t seem to have wings. They seem little more than sketches in the margins (now I shouldn’t complain about that), but not particularly well developed or engaging. I didn’t feel any particular sympathy or concern for the characters – as Nich said of the movie Kingdom of Heaven, the battle scenes were of people just jumping up and down. Nothing really happened, people just jumped up and down. Rather than depict the characters through their actions, or even through their thoughts, the process is rather more of a reveal – a slow reveal at that – perhaps like peeling one of those too-old oranges with tough skin, and that are disappointingly dry when you finally get inside.
Despite the lack of juice, I enjoyed the book. I read it deliberately because I hadn’t read ‘Chocolat’ in ages, and my view is less likely to be distorted by ‘why isn’t it more (or less) like Choc?’ I enjoyed the darker side of Joanne Harris. There are moments of piquant phrase, but they are sadly quite sparse. If you haven’t read the book, it’s not high art, I’d definitely recommend it for whiling a stormy night (as I did) or perhaps a sweaty hot afternoon fishing under the willows by an old river.