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Review: The Language of Chocolates by Bruno D’Arcy

The mysterious allure of chocolate is the theme of this slim volume by poet Bruno D’Arcy. As the title suggests, this is written by someone who cares for words and at the book’s heart are a series of witty chocolate-coated definitions:

‘Chocomania: The condition of being enthralled by chocolates. The fact that it cannot be cured should not necessarily be seen as a cause for concern.’

Alongside the definitions, are musings, observations and evocations. This is a book to be dipped into and savoured at leisure, rather than gulped down in one go. Literary references are wide-ranging, from Baudelaire, Proust and Dickens to Miss Read novels. Love and Romance (yes, with a capital ‘R’) are ever-present in the book, from the intimacy of a woman’s face ‘reflected in the shiny surface of a praline’ to an analysis of the ‘seductive Milk Tray intentions embedded in boxed chocolates’. Paris, Vienna and Brussels are reverently evoked as places in which to worship chocolate with D’Arcy conjuring up a Baroque world of mirrors, satin, courtly courtesans and the boudoir.

The rich sensuous writing is lanced with enough wit and humour to prevent it from being overly cloying. A scattering of some wonderfully obscure facts – such as the revelation that the Paris Metro employed staff to hand out chocolates to passengers to dissuade them from smoking - also play their part in rooting the book. The link between chocolate and war and peace is thought-provokingly explored, from the chocolates given to each other by German and French troops during WW1’s unofficial Christmas truce to the chocolate handed out by US troops in 1944 to the people of newly liberated Paris.

D’Arcy obviously adores chocolate and in this book he has created an elegant and delectable homage to it, one which will be enjoyed by both people who love chocolate and people who love words.

The Language of Chocolates is available at Amazon here° and other retailers.

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