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A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String by…
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A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String

by Joanne Harris

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815227,168 (3.79)9
A second short story collection from Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Peaches for Monsieur le Cure. Stories are like Russian dolls; open them up, and in each one you'll find another story.' Conjured from a wickedly imaginative pen, here is a new collection of short stories that showcases Joanne Harris's exceptional storytelling art.… (more)

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Showing 5 of 5
These were great short stories, just as you would expect from Joanne Harris.
The stories are set in different environments, but after half of the book they are taken up again and give the reader a familiarity of déjà vue, and one is therefore delighted once again to experience something with the characters. ( )
  Ameise1 | Sep 22, 2019 |
‘’I see now that there can be no leaving. I am a broken clock, frozen forever at an impossible hour. Let others move on, if they must, if they can. For myself, I have duties to carry out. Sacrifices to make. Stockings to fill. Warnings to deliver. Lives to touch. Like it or not, I am the Ghost of Christmas Present, and I have a job to do.’’

Joanne Harris is a writer I cautiously approach each time I choose to read one of her books. Most of her novels are favourites of mine, like Chocolat and Coastliners and others, like The Gospel of Loki, are really bad moments of my reading life. Not to mention the fact that her personality through social media seems impossibly intimidating. I haven’t read Jigs and Reels but this collection screamed my name. Look at the cover and the title, the very icons of tales and winter. These are stories born through loss and sadness, the characters are ghosts and people who have become ghosts of themselves.

River Song: A story about children in Congo that risk their lives by leaping into the rapids of a dangerous river. Their reward? Scraps of bread and chicken bones.

Faith and Hope Fly South: Two marvelous elderly ladies who bring joy and hope to those around them and keep on dreaming of the future.

There’s No Such Place as Bedford Falls: A man decides that Christmas should be around us every day of the year. The people of his community do not share his opinion…

Would You Like To Reconnect: A mother keeps in touch with her son through Twitter. Even in the most horrible of circumstances.

Rainy Days and Mondays: What happens when the God of Rain and the Sun Goddess meet on a rainy summer day?

Dryad: An unusual love affair between a woman and a beautiful tree. One of the most beautiful tales in the collection.

Harry Stone and the 24-Hour Church of Elvis: An Elvis Presley impersonator who also happens to be a private investigator. I am not a big fan of Elvis Presley and I was not a fan of this story.

The Ghosts of Christmas Present: The man from Bedford Falls tries to cope with the loss of his most beloved ghost. A tender, sad story full of Christmas melancholy.

Wildlife in Manhattan: Joanne Harris, please leave the Gods of Asgard alone!

Cookie: A woman who has fallen in the abyss of depression creates a baby out of spice and sugar. This haunting, dark story contains two of the most unlikable characters you’ll ever meet.

Ghosts In The Machine: Two lonely souls come together through songs played through the small hours of the night. I loved this story. It reminded me of a more serious, bittersweet version of Sleepless In Seattle.

Dee Eye Why: A very particular haunted house story. I cannot say anything more because even the tiniest remark could become a spoiler. I can tell you that it was a showstopper in this collection.

Muse: Inspiration can be found in the most humble of places as long as there is warmth and unity.

The Game: The darkest story. A tale that will have you guessing with a healthy dose of heartbeats and agony. A game whose consequences are irreversible.

Faith and Hope Get Even: Our beloved elderly ladies stand up against a terrible woman and a major bully and show her what it means when your crimes are discovered.

Road Song: The curse of child trafficking in Togo and the hope of a change.

This is a beautiful collection, no doubt about it. However, there were a couple of stories that didn’t satisfy me as a reader and seemed out of place. In my opinion, the negative element in this collection is the characters. Some of them are so unlikable and irritating. Having said that, the roots of these stories lie in the human soul and the ghosts that haunt us in all their forms. The hopeful that shows us the way and the terrifying that reminds us of our faults. These are not the most memorable stories I’ve ever read but they are beautiful examples of the writing of a very interesting writer.

‘’Don’t forget your cat and your hat - and, with a long enough piece of string, you’ll always be sure to find the way home.’’

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Feb 12, 2019 |
This month our club decided to read a selection of Joanne Harris novels and share our thoughts and opinions on her style and story lines. This is an interesting exercise, as the discussion can lead to a curious and fascinating look into an author’s writing technique.

Cheryle and Delia read Five Quarters of the Orange and enjoyed its strong story line and well developed characters of German occupated France. The setting of France is a frequent backdrop in Harris’s novels.
Sandra, who read Lollipop Shoes set in Paris, thoroughly enjoyed this sequel to Chocolat and as she will be visiting Paris soon, was really taken with the location.

Kathy read Peaches for Monseiur Le Cure, the third novel in the Chocolat saga and found it very interesting. Harris tackled the muslim issue in today’s France for her ever present conflict theme. Something we all recognised as a common thread in her story lines.

Sandra (No. 2) chose Harris’s collection of short stories, A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String and found it very enjoyable. She is a lover of short stories and although not all of them were to her liking, she did find it a worthwhile read. There are links to her novels scattered throughout, and we found one with Blueeyedboy, a tale of the computer generation and what it means to be anonomous in this day and age.

Quite removed from her usual theme, Blueeyedboy is a distrubing story of mental health and the isolating of individuals through on-line communties. If you are a lover of Harris and her French connection, you are unlikely to take to BEB, nevertheless, curiousity may get the better of you, as it did with Cheryle, who decided to give it a try. Discovery through reading should always be encouraged and we look forward to hearing what she makes of it. ( )
  DaptoLibrary | Jul 20, 2015 |
I enjoyed these stories very much, they should be read in isolation I think because each story is it's own story. Apart from the two lovely Faith and Hope stories, I thought these were fabulous and I would love to read more vignettes about these lovely ladies.
  Debspage | Sep 9, 2013 |
I couldn't quite resist when I saw this in Waterstones -- particularly as I'd been staring at it throughout a frankly embarrassing asthma attack (let it be known that human goodness is not just a myth: several random passers-by collected around me and helped me administer my inhaler, and someone fetched a Waterstones employee to fetch a glass of water from the staff room -- it all rather belied the cynical stuff about how people always assume someone else is going to help you; or maybe it just proves that people who shop for books are excellent people?). I used to undervalue Joanne Harris a lot by virtue of the fact that I'd seen plenty of people around reading her books. Bah, I thought, with that special brand of snobbery: bestsellers. And Johnny Depp played one of her characters in a film adaptation...? Oh, my.

So when I did read one of her books, I smuggled it in past myself. And then I read it in an evening, glorying in her prose and sounding out each word. And then I read another of her books, and another -- and then it hit me that she's one of my favourite authors, in a special way that guarantees I will buy each of her books as they come out without fluttering excitement, but with a smile of familiarity, feeling the promise of comfort (even when the stories themselves are discomforting -- lookin' at you, blueeyedboy, Gentlemen & Players).

So anyway, yes, I bought this book -- and then saved it, for when I needed it. It turned out to be in the middle of a case of the blahs, when my dissertation wasn't shifting an inch and my girlfriend wasn't online, and... so on. It didn't wave a magic wand and cure me, that's for sure, but it got me interested, and curious, and curiosity is good for the mind. I found some of the stories a little predictable, but everywhere I found what I read Joanne Harris for: that voice, that prose, that imagery, that sure touch. I think my favourite stories were 'Cookie' and 'Dee Eye Why', but I enjoyed all of them.

I can't promise you'll have the same experience, of course. You might read one of Joanne Harris' books and come away feeling entirely different to me in every respect. But don't sniff and turn your nose up without trying, for goodness sake. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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