This is a novel in two parts: a childhood in occupied France and a return to the same village in old age. One part struggles for a story and the other reads like the novel is should be.
Joanne Harris has written a novel about secrets that were buried in the past but come to the surface in the present by a daughter's inheritance of her mother's obscure cook book and journal. It is about the relationship of a single mother, her three children, and a German soldier who befriends Framboise, the heroine. Like all war stories, this relationship with the enemy ends in tragedy.
The present day sections of the novel flow quickly and the character of Framboise is of more interest as she discovers there is more to her mother's treasured cookbook than recipes. The author nicely connects the coded journal notes to the village in the past but I found these sections about fishing in the Loire and buying on the black market rather slow and undramatic, especially when compared to a similar but greater novel like Suite Francaise.
This is a book with much potential and I wished it had been written slightly different, perhaps spending more time on the three siblings relationship after the war. As children they are not that interesting, except for Franboise misunderstanding of her mother. This is captured in the title, the scent of orange that drives the mother to have crippling migraines because the daughter has hidden the peel in the house.
Yet I liked this novel, and as a cook, was intrigued by the culinary references. However, it does not inspire me to read more by the author.