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Five Quarters of the Orange
by Joanne Harris

In Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris returns to the small-town, postwar France of Chocolat. This time she follows the fortunes of Framboise Dartigan, named for a raspberry but with the disposition of, well, a lemon. The proprietor of a café in a rustic village, this crabby old lady recalls the days of her childhood, which coincided with the German occupation. Back then, she and her brother and sister traded on the black market with the Germans, developing a friendship with a charismatic young soldier named Tomas. This intrigue provided a distraction from their grim home life--their father was killed in the war and their mother was a secretive, troubled woman. Yet their relationship with Tomas led to a violent series of events that still torment the aging Framboise.

Harris has a challenging project here: to show the complicated, messy reality behind such seemingly simple terms as collaborator and Resistance. To the children, of course, these were mere abstractions: "We understood so little of it. Least of all the Resistance, that fabulous quasi-organization. Books and the television made it sound so focused in later years; but I remember none of that. Instead I remember a mad scramble in which rumor chased counter-rumor and drunkards in cafes spoke loudly against the new regime." The author's portrait of occupier and occupied living side by side is given texture by her trademark appreciation of all things French. Yes, some passages read like romantic, black-and-white postcards: "Reine's bicycle was smaller and more elegant, with high handlebars and a leather saddle. There was a bicycle basket across the handlebars in which she carried a flask of chicory coffee." But these simple pleasures, recorded with such adroitness, are precisely what give Framboise solace from the torment of her past. --Claire Dederer



From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Sunday, December 15, 2002 11:36 AM The thing I thought Harris did very well in this book was to advance the three parts with perfect balance: The present drama, with Boise's return to the town, the power struggle with her nephew, the snack wagon, etc.; the past summer when the town was adjusting to Nazi occupation and she was trying to catch Old Mother; and the background information about Framboise and her family. Often in this kind of split story I seem to spend too much time wondering about the thread of the book I'm not reading, but never with 5 Quarters. Overall the book was a very pleasant surprise for me, having seen the movie Chocolat and wondered what, really, all the fuss was about. That one was pretty one dimensional! So, where should this discussion start? That mother was a real piece of work. I sympathize with her migraines, but why the thing with oranges? Is there any basis for phantom scents associated with migraines? Tomas was pretty benign compared to most Nazi characters. He seemed to be just biding his time to me. It was surprising that his death resulted in killing just 10 people, considering the real events that took place during WWII that were far more horrific. Still he was a small fish, and in a town of that size, with those people, the repercussions were believable. Well, obviously I didn't organize my thoughts or plan an opening note as nicely as Sherry always does, but there you go. I'm ready to hear from Karen who she thinks the 5 quarters of the orange are! Tonya
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (2 of 8), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Sunday, December 15, 2002 07:22 PM Tonya -- Okay, here's the theory... The 5 quarters of the orange are Boise, Reine, Cassis, their mother, and Paul. Without the 5 of them, you do not know the entire story. Each of them has a piece and it takes all of them put together to make the whole. Of course, the central part of this thought process is the scene in the book where Boise cuts up that last orange. The whole process is a metaphor for the larger story. The pieces are uneven, just like the roles they all play; Boise takes a smaller piece as a way of manipulating what others are thinking. She mostly tries to assign the smallest piece to herself throughout, but really aren't her actions the catalyst for the entire story? Without Boise, would Thomas have died? She hides her true responsibility just like she hides the small piece of orange. If these 5 are the five quarters of the orange, who is that small hidden piece? I think it is Paul. His role in the whole drama is unknown by the major players until the end. He plays the role of protector of the family; Boise imagines that her tricks with the orange pieces protect her and her siblings from the interference of their mother. That hidden wedge holds the secret of the story; Paul holds the secret of the story, more so than any of the others are aware. The orange peel on the cover is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. First is that the orange was peeled in one piece and is so carefully arranged on the cover. This takes a lot of extra care and time to accomplish. Have you ever been able to peel an orange in one piece? Several of the characters use extra care and time to arrange events in specific ways. Thomas certainly is doing so in his smuggling; Boise is doing so in manipulating her mother; the mother does so in controlling her migraines and addiction. Also, the peel on the cover gives the illusion that you could sort of roll it back up into the shape of the orange and it would look like a whole orange, although it is now empty in the center and you would, of course, be able to see the lines where the peel was pushed together. I kind of read this story in a similar manner. Boise is trying to recreate the orange, so to speak. Put things back into place and give the illusion of wholeness or completeness. Can Boise every actually have wholeness for herself? I personally don't think so. She is too permanently wounded by the events of that summer and the lines will always show and there will always be an emptiness at the center. Karen
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (3 of 8), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, December 15, 2002 09:15 PM Karen, That is brilliant. I loved this book, I might add. I see Paul not only as the protector but as the destroyer of the family. He got his revenge and then did his best to help the family. One thing I found difficult to believe was that Frambroise was so sneaky and underhanded at age 9. She seemed to control her older brother and sister. Isn't it interesting that the whole family is named after fruits and nuts? Framboise, Mirabelle, Reine-Claude, Cassis, Pistache, and Noisette. Fruit does play an important part in the book. Jane
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (4 of 8), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Jean Keating jbkeating@cox.net Date: Sunday, December 15, 2002 10:18 PM Thank you Karen for explaining the 5 quarters bit. I read and enjoyed this book over a year ago, but did not give much attention to the meaning of the title. I, too, thought it was a superior story to Chocolate. Jean K.
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (5 of 8), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, December 15, 2002 11:22 PM I've read Chocolat and Blackberry Wine and I agree this is a far better book. I think it's because in this book Harris depended far less on magic.Instead the actions of the characters and the development of the plot arose from the psyche of her characters. I was glued. My only real criticism is that the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed. Too many little comments on the order of "but wait until you see what bad things came of what I did." Karen, that was a wonderful analysis. I am very, very, impressed. I also looked at that coil and thought about how the story gradually uncoiled. Boise was besotted with Tomas, that was clear. Do you think 9 is a little too young for this kind of fascination? I couldn't decide. Ruth
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (6 of 8), Read 10 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Monday, December 16, 2002 08:44 AM Ruth -- I do not think 9 was too young for that kind of fascination. I have had cousins that age and slightly younger that were enthralled with the husbands/boyfriends of their older cousins. I think several things heightened the experience in Boise's case: she had so little nurturing or expectation of love from any other area; the forbidden aspect since he was a German soldier; the atmosphere and romance of war (the war didn't really seem to come to their village until after Thomas was shot. It was not a real experience to Boise until then, I think). Jane -- I'm interested in why you see Paul as the destroyer of the family. That thought did not occur to me at all. I think Boise is much harder on herself than she deserves. I take a much dimmer view of her older siblings who understood what they were doing. Even Thomas' death is not what is responsible for the killing of the townspeople. If Cassis hadn't come up with the idea of shooting him, and they had just left him drowned, sure his body would have been found. And it would have looked like he just went for a swim and got caught in the roots. I don't think there would have been the horrible consequences. Another note re: Boise killing the snakes. I immediately thought of my cousin Cooper. He was 7 years old when the terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center. His parents explained to him what happened. Later his mother walked by his room. He had all his toy soldiers out and one set was being methodically destroyed. When his mother asked what he was doing, he said he was getting rid of the terrorists. Karen
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (7 of 8), Read 2 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Monday, December 16, 2002 11:01 AM Interesting observations, Karen. I would only say, though, that the small hidden piece must be their mother, as evidenced by her secrets, only revealed much later, in the journal. 9 is certainly not too young for the precocious sort of dreaming Framboise was inclined to. All of the children seemed quite believable to me. It seemed likely someone here would mention the food names; I'll just say it is really gimmicky and offputting to me-- in the first place the fact that all her books have food in the titles, and then finding after just a page or two that these characters had food names. Actually, add those complaints to the fact that there was an example of ini writing from the journal at the very beginning of the book that apparently fooled the adult daughter reading it, but wasn't in the least challenging to me, and I know beyond a doubt I'd never have read the book without it being on our list. And that would have been my loss. Down with gimmicks! Tonya
From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Monday, December 16, 2002 11:07 AM I forgot to say: I couldn't agree more with Ruth's assessment of the style of foreshadowing. In fact I thought Old Mother took care of all necessary foreshadowing on her own, evoking for me The Monkey's Paw, in which we are clearly warned to be careful what we wish for. Tonya
From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Monday, December 16, 2002 11:23 AM I also agree re: the foreshadowing. I have not read Blackberry Wine, but I have read Chocolat. In both of the books of hers that I have read, I get very swept along by the story and don't want to put the book down. However, I very much dislike her endings, in Chocolat more than this one. I think her endings are too manipulated and do not necessarily spring organically out of the text. I kind of get the feeling she just wants to end the books. Karen
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (10 of 32), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2002 10:50 AM I enjoyed reading this book, and reading the comments here, as well. Tonya, with regard to your phantom scent question, some migraine sufferers report heightened sensory sensitivities, such as light, noise or smells. I, myself, can't stand even the mildest sounds when I'm about to get a migraine. I have never heard of oranges or even a phantom orange odor being a problem, but it would not surprise me at all. MAP
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (11 of 32), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2002 11:27 PM Wow. What great notes. I've been putting off reading this thread until I finished the book but, still having almost 100 pages to go, I couldn't help myself from seeing what the rest of you had to say. The orange is symbolic of health, sweet and nourishing. How interesting that Harris uses it, instead, to symbolize something so diametrically opposite. The mother's migraines and her morphine addiction destroyed these children, particularly Boise. I wonder if the father knew his wife was addicted to the morphine and he supplied her with her pills, not so much to ease her pain, but to end her withdrawals and the violence that accompanied them. Btw, I did a little net search and it's not that rare for the smell of oranges to bring on migraines for some people. Before I read this thread, I kept thinking, in regards to the title, of that old thing..'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (12 of 32), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 12:54 AM This is the first of Harris' books for me and I just finished it tonight. It's the first page-turner I've read for a while. From the middle on, I was constantly sneaking a few minutes to read. My only criticism is the ending which seemed a bit too pat and overly romanticized. I had a hard time thinking that Boise, covered with emotional scar tissue, would be "rescued" by a relationship with Paul at the age of sixty-five. However, Harris' portrait of the children who were, in a sense, abandoned from a very early age, was excellent, I thought. When children are left to scrabble for love and recognition, the picture is often not pretty. Barb
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (13 of 32), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 05:04 AM Wonderful thread. I agree to some extent on the weaknesses in Harris's books but the key as Tonya pointed out is that I feel I would rather have had the pleasure which they each held despite the niggling little fruit names and the bits of magic. As I have said before, the magic in Blackberry Wine reminded me of Dandelion Wine and thus didn't bother me as much as it does in other books I've read. Some work for me and others don't when it comes to the use of these magical touches. Or perhaps it is the particular author's use of it -- Bradbury, Byatt, Harris, Bradley all work for me -- will have to think of those who didn't. I think part of the appeal for me in FQOTO is the relationship I feel to that monument and the events it represented to the adult Boise. How many lists of dead from the war are on how many monuments in how many tiny villages? One which I think of ties somewhat to this is in Malmedy and lists soldiers and citizens alike -- children as young as two or perhaps even younger -- from a particular incident which took place there. I stood and read them all which I don't always do. Dottie "...every good war needs the occasional amnesty." Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (14 of 32), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 07:14 AM The ending may have been overly-romanticized, but hey, after such a hard knot of a life, I didn't mind a little happy ending. I agree, Tonya, the fruit names were a bit much, but they sound a lot better in French than they do in English, n'est ce pas? The only quibble I have with the book, and I agree it was a page-turner, was that I didn't think that staging Tomas' "execution" was realistic for children. And so much hinged on that. I didn't buy Cassis' reasoning about Tomas being found drowned. Did it make sense in the context of the rest of the book? Sherry
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (15 of 32), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 11:10 AM Beej, I'm stunned you think the mother's migraines or addiction was the culprit! Not her emotional distance? Not the war and occupation? Not the fact that a lonely German was using these children quite shamelessly for his own gain and amusement? While, I have to add, carrying on a secret affair with their mother? That affair, which I feel Harris tried to make pivotal, has scarcely been mentioned here. It served to make their mother (was Mirabelle her name?) believe she murdered Tomas, and then to rage to the mob about it, whipping them to a greater fury. There is extraordinarily little sympathy for this woman, including from me. But she was very ill (I used to get migraines, I know), recently widowed, and trying to support three children. And one was using that illness to drive her mad. In most books she'd come off pretty sad. ~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~#~ It seems from all the notes so far that I was wrong in saying the present and past were well balanced in FQOTO. In fact until Paul forced the confrontation with her, it had Framboise exactly where her mother was, trying to ignore what was happening right outside her door. I loved the final confrontation scene. Tonya
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (16 of 32), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 01:08 PM Tonya -- didn't you just want to throttle Boise when she was using that orange to bring on or make her mother's migraines worse? I still hold my breath when the symptoms of migraine threaten! Dottie "...every good war needs the occasional amnesty." Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (17 of 32), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 08:52 PM Tonya, I wrote that when I still had a hundred pages to go. I had no idea about the mother's affair, etc! and, it all seemed to come to a head within that last 100 pages. Now that I've finished the book, I have a better understanding as to what was going on and I have tremendous sympathy for Mirabelle. She seemed so old, especially as the story was related from a nine year old's point of view, but in fact, Mirabelle was still in her thirties. She suffered, she was alone and trying to raise three strong willed children. She never asked anyone for help. Isn't it sad how the two times Mirabelle seemed happy, it backfired? First, when she was having this affair and began to dress nicely. Second was when Reine became Harvest Queen..the mother softened and ran to her daughter, only to discover Reine had an orange in her hand. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (18 of 32), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 09:08 PM There were a couple things I found pretty amazing about Boise. one, she never told her daughters about any of this, or even that she had siblings. She so totally tried to block the past. But, then there was this book left to her. And, as she hid her identity and shunned her past, she still felt the need to decipher all that happened so long before. I would have loved to have known more of Rein's history. We know some things but not many. Also, I kept thinking of Old Mother as a symbol for Mirabelle...dark, evasive, a mystery whose very existence was a threat. Boise's determination to catch Old Mother corresponded with her newly acquired means of using the orange peels to bring on her mother's migraines. And, when she finally did catch the pike, Tomas ends up losing his life trying to help Boise bring in the trap. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (19 of 32), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002 09:28 PM Ruth, you said your "only real criticism is that the foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed. Too many little comments on the order of "but wait until you see what bad things came of what I did." Wasn't this book the story that was being ghostwritten for Boise? Isn't she dictating all this to a writer who already knows what it's all about? I think, maybe, all the foreshadowing is really Boise telling this writer that everything she says will eventually tie into the real story ..the one that the writer is waiting to hear. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (20 of 32), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 12:01 AM Is there something about Boise telling this to a writer? If so, I'd forgotten. But I don't think it makes much difference. Boise may be telling this to her writer, but Harris is telling her readers. And it HAS to work on both levels. I couldn't decide at all about Mirabelle. Sometimes I felt sorry for her, other times I wanted to kick her in the shins. Ruth
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (21 of 32), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 06:46 AM I found myself wondering whether Mirabelle would have been a good mother and all around decent person if her situation were different -- no war, no dead husband, etc. I still think she would have been cold and secretive. But I don't think she would have driven her children to such extremes. I don't think she could have gotten the kind of work out of her children that she did, had she not been mean. She reminded me of farm mothers in the poor rural South who were mule-drivers when it came to their children, their only form of free labor. Sherry
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (22 of 32), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 07:19 AM Wouldn't it have been interesting to know what Mirabelle's past was as a child? I know that a book can only give so much but it would have been an interesting thread. I suppose that's the teacher in me. I always want to know what in an environment influenced the behavior. Probably the only villains in this story were Laure and her brother because there was nothing given to us about their pasts that explained their behavior. I would be tempted to call Tomas a villain if Harris hadn't told us about his past. In fact, in the story that was set during the occupation, I had a hard time condemning anyone. They were all just doing what they could to survive. Barb
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (23 of 32), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 08:27 AM I think both Mirabelle and Boise longed to be more affectionate but, especially in Mirabelle's case, there was too much rage. The only time Mirabelle could freely express affection was when she dealt with her recipes and when she tended to her fruit trees. Boise inherited this emotional brick wall, as did Boise's one daughter. It's sort of interesting to compare the three siblings and see that each developed such different personalities. Boise was more like her mother, with a personality formed around a cold, hard core. Rein was just the opposite; she was soft, vulnerable, too sensitive to emotionally survive all that occurred. Cassis strove his entire life for control. in effect, Boise longed to erect a wall, Cassis longed to be the wall, and Rein longed to tear down the wall. None of them really succeeded. As for the ending, where the villagers confront Mirabelle at her home..I just don't accept that her primary goal for all she did was to protect her children. I think there's more to it. Do you think she separated herself from these kids because she was afraid she might harm them while under the spell of her migraines? Wasn't there something in the beginning about their father locking their bedroom doors during Mirabelle's 'attacks' to prevent her from harming the children? Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (24 of 32), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 08:41 AM Beej -- yes the father locked the mother in so she wouldn't hurt the children but once he was gone he couldn't stand between them and her migraines and the violent turn they might take. However rarely that had occurred in the past the idea must have haunted both the mother and the children which is one reason Boise manipulations seemed so strange when she began to plan them. I held my breath as I turned the pages that first time through the book thinking the mother might be pushed into violence against the children at some point. I have to say again how much I'm enjoying the comments from everyone as I re-read and check in here. Dottie "...every good war needs the occasional amnesty." Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (25 of 32), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 08:47 AM Dottie, I absolutely LOVED this book. in fact, even tho most say 'Chocolat' isn't nearly as good as this one, I've picked up that one and plan to read it next. Mirabelle was so controlling that I think Boise figured the only way to get the freedom to do what she wanted was to make her mother unavailable though her headaches. I don't think Boise was totally aware of the possibility of violence. Why do you think Boise was so obsessed with Old Mother? Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (26 of 32), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 08:50 AM I think, too, that Mirabelle was predisposed toward violent behavior above and beyond the headaches. There were several references made to scrubbing these kids in the bath until their skin was raw and sometimes bleeding. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (27 of 32), Read 18 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 09:06 AM I thought that those incidents were related to her headaches though. But as someone pointed out -- we know little of her own childhood and that could be a result of her own past manifesting itself in her mothering ability or lack of. Dottie "...every good war needs the occasional amnesty." Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (28 of 32), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 09:09 AM I think it's important, too, to remember that Mirabelle was still rather young, herself. But, I think she felt her life was over, and that she had no hope for a better life. It's probably why she succumbed so completely to Tomas...he gave her reason to hope for happiness.. She was so controlled that I can see why she would become so enveloped in rage over him. My guess is that was a bigger motive for her rage toward Tomas than what he had done to her children. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (29 of 32), Read 7 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 10:02 PM Karen, I haven't been on since Monday, because this is finals week at our school. You asked why I called Paul the destroyer of the family. It is because he admitted that he was the one who was sending the anonymous letters to Mirabelle, and he was the one who was painting the obscenities on the wall of their house. I think that it is his fault that the townspeople attacked the family. It suddenly struck me that Reine by itself means queen. And there was a French queen, hundreds of years ago, named Claude. It fits that Reine was crowned harvest queen. I know that Boise is short for Framboise, but every time I saw that word, I thought of the word boise with an accent aigu over the "e". It means wooded, and I felt that Boise was a tough as wood. Then Cassis reminded me of Creme de Cassis, a liqueur, and the person Cassis had a drinking problem later in life. Jane, being a bit farfetched in her thinking
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (30 of 32), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 10:14 PM Jane -- I didn't remember that Paul was the one painting the obscenities on the house. That is an interesting observation. I think you are probably right that if it wasn't for the mysterious graffiti the town wouldn't have been so interested in Mirabelle. It also indicates that Paul knew more than the other kids -- they did not realize their mother was having an affair with Tomas and the graffiti does show an awareness of that. Karen
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (31 of 32), Read 6 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 10:24 PM It's been a while since I read this, but I always had the feeling that Paul used the fact that people didn't him credit for much intelligence as a cover. They ignored him a lot and he kept his ears and eyes open. Lynn
From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, December 19, 2002 10:33 PM After discovering what Paul did, I wondered how Boise could stand the sight of him at all there at the end. Ruth
From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 08:28 AM I also didn't quite understand the reasoning behind his putting up the graffiti. Ostensibly, it was so he could get back into the fold. I can't understand how even a young boy could make that leap. Why would disparaging the mother of his friends help him get into their good graces? I didn't buy that. Maybe Harris used this incident to show how little the children understood about the occupation and the dangers of the war. They didn't know they were playing such a deadly game. I'm not convinced it was in character, but a little forced. Sherry
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (34 of 43), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 08:46 AM Mirabelle had been bitterly nasty to this fellow. I agree with Lynn; Paul was all eyes and ears. He watched from the outside all that was going on, missing nothing. I think the mother pushed all the wrong buttons, and at that point, Paul's only thought was to hurt her. And he did. Almost every character in this book was wrapped up in personal secrets. Secrets actually made up the running thread through the novel, from Reine's hidden lipstick right down the line through Boise's hidden past and Paul's long hidden part he played with the letters and griffiti. It's interesting to note that not a single secret, secrets that absorbed and affected entire lifetimes, remained buried. The only character who almost got away with keeping a secret deeply buried, was Paul. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (35 of 43), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 09:28 AM Beej -- I wonder about the secrets Reine has, though. So much is locked up in her mind and despite her apparent assumption that she knows everything that happened, Boise wasn't always there to see everything. Karen
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (36 of 43), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 09:48 AM Karen, I thought Reine was the most interesting of the children. As I said in an earlier post, I really regret that we didn't get to know more about her. Not only was she raped, which is horrendous enough on its own, but she was betrayed through that ordeal by someone she trusted and loved; Tomas. And, unaware that Boise knew she had been raped, she held this secret in her heart, and though we are not told whether she mentioned this to her mother or brother (didn't' the innkeeper tell Mirabelle?), I presume she told no one. Reine's ace in the hole was her natural sensuality and beauty. Boy, did that boomerang back to slap her in the face. After the all that happened, Reine still focused on a glamorous future, of course did not succeed, became promiscuous and, eventually, demented. Reine had the potential of becoming an incredible and unforgettable character and I so wish Harris had focused a bit more on her. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (37 of 43), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 10:59 AM We all knew that the big present day secret would be exposed in the end, right? That Framboise was the same person 50 years later. I wonder if anybody questioned that Paul knew her or recognized her or at least figured it out? Also, does anybody else wonder when, if ever, she is going to unearth that cache of expensive wine under the cellar floor? I thought it would come into play somehow before the book ended, and was just a little disappointed nothing came of it. Since it is Reine's inheritance, and Reine is in such a terrible state, is there any good that a small fortune could do her? I kept thinking Framboise needed to sell it, and move Reine to the McLean sanatorium. Tonya
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (38 of 43), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 11:44 AM I kept thinking Framboise needed to sell it, and move Reine to the McLean sanatorium. Heehee. Good one, Tonya. Ruth
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (39 of 43), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 12:47 PM Tonya, your question piqued my curiosity so I went back and re-read a little regarding the wine. When Yannick and Laure visited Boise and asked her about the wine in the cellar, she said, 'That's being kept for her (Reine). I won't touch it.' Yannick insists, since Reine wasn't in a position to claim it, that they should divide it among those present. Again, Boise says: 'All that belongs to Reine..I won't touch it.' I wonder if Boise believed there was a chance Reine would recover someday. Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (40 of 43), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale papcons@earthlink.net Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 07:50 PM I feel like I've read quite a few books lately where the mother is aloof and unavailable because of her headaches. There's MOONSTONE, THE HOURS, ATONEMENT, FQOTO, and I just finished THE LITTLE FRIEND. A frequent part of that theme is that the kids are left to fend for themselves. I enjoyed reading FQOTO, but I have to say I'm growing weary of this literary theme. The next one might just, well, give me a headache. MAP
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (41 of 43), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 08:31 PM Heehee, MAP. It's funny how things seem to go in cycles. Ruth
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (42 of 43), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, December 20, 2002 08:33 PM And there's the mother in 'The Sound and the Fury.' (And all these years I thought the old "Not tonight, honey..I have a headache".. was a joke!) Beej
From: Sheila Ash sheila_ash@lineone.net Date: Friday, December 27, 2002 02:40 PM Read this today. Loved it - just the book for a lazy, easy holiday day. I had previously read Blackberry Wine. What struck me then and has been reinforced by reading 5/4 is just how good Harris is in her depictions of childhood. I must now read Chocolat. Sheila
From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, December 29, 2002 03:20 AM I thought it was a bit much that Framboise, a nine year old, was able to manipulate her mother as she did. Just a bit too precocious for me. And when was Mirabelle getting out of the house? We get the idea that she was trading sex for drugs, with good old Tomas as the trader. Were not some of these times when she claimed a migraine coming on? Was she playing a game with the children just as Framboise was playing her? Tomas is a different sort of Gestapo type. In most books, the Gestapo is totally committed to the Third Reich and the betterment of the Aryan race. Not Tomas. He was committed to his own betterment. A great con-man, both of the village French and the German army. I had the feeling Reine (sp?) wound up a prostitute. For better or worse, making use of her looks. Cassis seemed the most understanding of the children. He was the one who pointed out that Tomas was not actually getting anyone in trouble with the authorities, but blackmailing with the information he acquired from the children. The children informing on other Frenchmen really grated on me. Of course there are always collaborateurs, but I would have thought that the children would not have been susceptible to the bribes that Tomas offered. But children are self-centered little animals, and it may be more than reasonable. It means that Tomas spoke very good French, and may have been fairly well educated or at least well traveled. I remember being told by one French man (or woman) that they would ignore anything the Germans said in German and forced the Germans to speak French. They did much the same with the Americans. They have this thing about the French language. I ran into a similar thing in Quebec; where they take the money of the English speaking Canadians, but refuse to learn English. The drama of the story centers around a rather stupid decision of the children to shoot Tomas' dead body, rather than let it appear that he had drowned. I find it hard to believe that any rational child would have come up with that idea. But it does focus the story on this one incident. I feel sorry for Cassis's son and daughter-in-law. They saw the potential for Mirabelle's story and recipes and were thwarted by Framboise, who was against it for what seemed like childish reasons. And then she did give out the story herself, which seemed anti-climactic. As for peeling the orange as they show on one of the covers, I've seen that done by several maitre d's. When you order a coffee diablo, an orange is peeled in such a fashion, so that it's pretty long. Then a liquer (I don't which one) is allowed to flow down the orange to ultimately wind up in a cup of coffee. Of course it's also lighted and makes quite a display. The last place we had this was at the Prince of Wales Room in the Coronado Hotel in San Diego. Mirabelle also rings a bell. That's a little fruit that was grown by the farmer who had a place next to our Army base in France. He made a potent (and cheap) drink out of this which was prized by we GI's toward the end of the month when money was running short. Cassis as everyone knows is the basis of Creme de Cassis which is used to make Kirs, and can be used in a pinch in Kir Royales. EDD
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (45 of 50), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Sheila Ash sheila_ash@lineone.net Date: Sunday, December 29, 2002 05:36 AM EDD, I too thought the shooting of Tomas a bit over the top. I think the story would have worked just as well with a straightforward drowning, with perhaps the children still hiding his clothes, but the not finding of the clothes would have been enough for Germans to suspect foul play and shoot the villagers. Tomas was nothing less than a spiv, making good in bad times. Everywhere had them, everywhere tolerated them because everywhere needed them. The black market is the only thing that worked. I have also become aware from you post that the cover of the US edition is obviously not the same as the one in the UK. This is not uncommon. However, the subtle differences are interesting. The UK edition follows the same pattern as that for Blackberry Wine. It depicts a wall, presumably of a kitchen, with a shelf. Things hang from the wall or lie on the shelf. For 5/4 these include an orange (hanging) a spent shotgun cartridge (shelf) a muslin bag of herbs (shelf) a bunch of dried seed heads(hanging) and a grenade (hanging). Only the presence of this last item give any indication from the cover that the book has anything to do with war or wartime. Sheila
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (46 of 50), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, December 29, 2002 08:17 PM Edd, it never dawned on me that the mother was using the excuse of a migraine to get out of the house and meet Tomas. I bet you're right. It does seem that Tomas is always, always at the core of any scheming going on here. He was a catalyst that played on the deepest wants of these people in order to satisfy his own wants. I didn't quite understand that shooting business either. But, if he had simply drowned and it had been left at that, the story wouldn't have been nowhere as good! Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (47 of 50), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, December 29, 2002 08:26 PM Sheila, I found this photo of the cover of the edition you have: Beej
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (48 of 50), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Monday, December 30, 2002 07:36 AM I agree with your take on the shooting incident, Edd. It seems like a plot device to further Harris' idea of the story along, instead of something that sprang from the elements of the story. The book would have been better, and I might consider it for my "best of" list if this didn't stick in my craw. Beej, I know what you mean, but wouldn't it have been a greater achievement on Harris's part, if she had made a great story without that kind of manipulation? Sherry
Topic: FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE - Harris (49 of 50), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, December 30, 2002 08:18 AM I vacillated on my opinions about these children. They reminded me of those pigeons in the behavior modification experiments that I saw in films in college. The experiments showed that pecking behaviors at a food door increased the most with only occasional reinforcement, even greater than for regular reinforcement (bear with me here). These children were not just emotionally abandoned. They got little bits of love from their mother at great intervals. They never knew when they were going to be attacked, emotionally or physically, and when they were going to be loved. That can produce some pretty desperate behavior (which is where I got my pigeon image). Because of that and the situation of war, I was willing to suspend disbelief. Barb
From: Sheila Ash sheila_ash@lineone.net Date: Monday, December 30, 2002 09:52 AM Beej, Yep, that is the one. Quite different, eh? Sheila

 

 


 
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