Dan Sandman

16: Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris

In Adventure, Books, Fiction on 19/04/2013 at 12:00 pm

As physical book sales fall, UK publishers Penguin, Harper Collins and Black Swan (part of the Random House Group) have been teaming up with national supermarket Sainsbury’s to encourage Britain’s shoppers to spend more money on books. With a focus on cheap prices, the Sainsbury’s Book Club offers a range of popular titles available in-store and on-line. Each book is labelled using orange stickers and the publisher’s original price is often halved. For example, I picked up Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris for £3.99; a book valued, according to its back cover, at £7.99 or CAN $17.95.

Before I entered the shop, I had consciously made the decision to buy whatever the number one best-seller happened to be. My reasoning: I wanted to do something that I’d never done before; I wanted to buy something purely because everyone else says it’s good. I wanted to ask the question, why do some books become best-sellers and some books fail to achieve the popularity they deserve?

Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris

“First of all, you can judge a book by its cover.”

First of all, you can judge a book by its cover. The cover of a book signals, to the casual book reader, information designed to entice said reader away from thoughts of food shopping; distracting members of the general public; and the sound of the self-service checkout machines talking too loudly: –

PLEASE INSERT YOUR COINS AND NOTES INTO THE COINS AND NOTES DISPENSER

A best-selling book is guaranteed to have a superlative quote. For example, ‘THRILLER OF THE YEAR’ OBSERVER (as in the case of Waterstone’s current number one best-seller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn) or ‘Typically mouthwatering’ Daily Mail (as in the case of Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé). It may, certainly, contain a reference to previous works – especially if they have been turned into Johnny Depp starring films – such as Bestselling author of Chocolat. And yes, the  artwork should be attractive and suggestive of what’s inside. So, if a book is a thriller, one might see something dark and striking; if the book’s title is Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé, one might see a picture of some peaches. All of these are well proven and effective sales devices.

But a good quote, a beautiful cover and an orange sticker aren’t quite enough. Best-selling books need to be easy to read and, to encourage quick page turning, best-sellers are often printed using a larger font. It helps best-selling books if they have a specific genre attached or if they have an accompanying t.v programme currently running. The writing itself should be clear, straightforwardly structured, and written in a definitive style. Best-sellers shouldn’t be too serious and should offer the reader some escapism; they give us a break from reality, not a mirror upon which to see the flawed beauty of society.

I’m glad that, through chance, I discovered the wonderfully colourful world of Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé. I was pleased with the book and it brought many smiles into my week. This was a great chance to transport myself into another world full of intrigue and cliffhangers. I warmed to the characters, in particular, I enjoyed seeing the optimistic Vianne Rocher working to help the pessimistic Father Reynaud. I found myself falling for the vividly sensual, idealistically interpreted, depiction of French village life. A world where Britain’s casual book readers can escape into the troubles of fictional characters.

A good read.

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