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Dona Nicanora's Hat Shop [Paperback]

Kirstan Hawkins
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

2 Sep 2010

Surrounded by forest and reached only by a treacherous road, the sleepy South American town of Valle de la Virgen is almost unknown to the outside world. But after a silent stranger rolls in on the back of a pick-up truck, nothing is the same again.

Life for the town's inhabitants has not turned out as they once dreamed. Doña Nicanora never did escape the swamp town and travel the world, Don Bosco did not marry the woman he loved, and the mayor is yet to achieve the power and influence he craves. But it is not until the arrival of the mysterious foreigner, known only as Gringito, that their dreams start to be reawakened. Yet every dream must come at a price and the inhabitants of this sleepy little town are about to get more than they bargained for.

Intriguing and intoxicating, with a host of unforgettable characters in a magical setting, Doña Nicanora's Hat Shop is a remarkable novel that dares us to follow our dreams.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (2 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099537575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099537571
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 659,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"I absolutely loved it - the sense of place was so strong, the characters so delicious and the sense of fun perfect for countering these gloomy times. I hope it does really well... It took me back to the pleasure I had reading Love in the Time of Cholera." (Mavis Cheek)

"Comic delight ... A quirky, bewitching novel brimming with great characters." (Woman & Home)

"This is a charming, humorous and quirky tale about love, politics and the importance of holding on to your dreams. A delightful debut that will beguile fans of Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Chocolat." (Waterstone's Book Quarterly)

"Plenty of charm in this effervescently sweet novel - perfect for reading in the bath." (Metro)

"A colourful and uplifting debut" (Daily Express)

Book Description

A warm and charmingly comic debut from a wonderful new voice in British fiction

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, uplifting and thought provoking 31 Jan 2010
Dona Nicanora's Hat Shop has the element of 'magical realism' that I really enjoy. Dona Nicanora is struck by lightening and develops the gift of telling the future but she does not want to use it, paving the way for some interesting events. The Hat Shop of the title represents the dreams that all people have, its 'reality' in the book takes a long time in coming but she gets there in the end with a bit of help from her friends. The characters are extrememly well drawn and I found myself developing a soft spot for Don Bosco, the love of Nicanora's life although it takes her a long time to realise it. One day a 'gringito' appears in the village, they have never had a tourist before and the mayor becomes quite excited by the development and starts to imagine a village full of tourists. The gringito becomes a sort of catalyst for change although the only thing we really learn about him is that he is 'searching for himself'and he doesn't actually do much at all.

It is one of those novels that can be enjoyed for its story and characters alone or, taking into account that the author is an anthropologist, deeper meaning can be read into many of the situations and characters. The village, for example, representing South American countries and the 'gringito', representing the foreign powers who come along, change everything and then disappear.

I wasn't expecting the events towards the end and there is one particular scene that is both hilarious and tragic - all I can say is that it involves hats, anymore would completely spoil it for anyone reading the book.

This will appeal to fans of Louis De Bernieres, particularly his South American novels and also to anyone who enjoyed Chocolate by Joanne Harris. Dona Nicanora's Hat shop is a thoroughly enjoyable, funny, uplifting and thought provoking book and I look forward to more from this author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humerous, beautifully written love story 20 Feb 2010
By PhilG
The author sets this book in Bolivia, a country she has lived in and knows well. The characters are beautufully drawn and the complexities of their lives is described in loving, colourful and hilarious detail. Nicanora, the central character is fierce, loyal and authentic. She knows that has made mistakes in her life and slowly realises how she can redeem herself in the eyes of those people she holds most dear. She is even prepared to sacrifce her dream of owning a hat shop in order to right the wrongs she has done.

This is a love story - for a country, for a people, for a way of life and between individual, fallable men and women. It will make you laugh (out loud) and cry; it will remind you of the twists and turns taken in your own life; and it will keep you turning the pages long into the night.

This is the Kirstan Hawkins's first book. She has a rare talent. I look forward to more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Nicola F (Nic) TOP 500 REVIEWER
I was spurred on to buy this after reading encouraging comments on the discussion forums as to what a great story it was. I'm happy to confirm that the reports are all true: this is a wonderful, heart-warming read about the eclectic array of inhabitants of a small South American town that is virtually unknown to the outside world.

Part love story, part character study and with a little bit of magic thrown in for good measure, the books central protagonist is a lady with big dreams. Dona Nicanora has always wanted to travel the world, but alas never made it. Now years later and back in the remote Valle de la Virgen, widowed with children, she has another dream- to open the town's first ever hat shop. Only, the process is not as straight forward as she hopes...

Other brilliant characters woven into the madcap tale include the rejected former beau, Don Bosco, who is still harbouring desire for Dona Nicanora all these years later, the power-hungry mayor, his alcoholic wife and the strange foreigner, `Gringito.' Gringito is just fabulously depicted as a real eccentric, and along with Dona Nicanora's daughter Nena, adds some real humour to the story. There's also the town's new doctor who has an aversion to blood- and to be honest, an aversion to being a doctor as well- and is pining for his rebellious girlfriend.

With the amount of characters you'd expect the story to be complicated, but it isn't and flows incredibly well. All characters are very well written and despite the small town setting there's nothing contrived or overly cliché about the events that take place. There's action, drama, politics and romance- a real mixed bag of a plot, but somehow it just works.

In summary, this is one heck of a debut novel and a really feel-good read in an infinitely charming setting. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author- she's definitely one to watch out for in future. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply enchanting 10 Oct 2010
By Miria
I was given this book by a friend and am very grateful for it. I wouldn't have normally picked this up myself so it was a surprise to have read the first chapter and be hooked already!
It is such a lovely story, very simple and yet so multi-layered. There were so many interesting plots going on at the same time and yet, all belonging together and weaving through eachother effortlessly.
I read the book in two days and found myself learning as I went along, wondering about a culture that seems to far from our own, yet so similar. I loved the plot twist towards the end and enjoyed the satisfying ending but it left me wanting more!
I sincerely hope the author continues to write as she has a great talent in telling an interesting story and writing believable and exciting characters - I will be looking forward to her next book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Humerous
It's hard to write a book that is funny without it being silly. this one worked. Good characterisation. Easy to read
Published 3 months ago by Eileen Broadhead
1.0 out of 5 stars Surrender!
I really can't be bothered to read any more than 100 pages! Sorry, I just don't find the characters. Interesting nor the story credible.
Published 5 months ago by Lavinia 3
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read.
A really good read if you like magical realism. Well written, interesting characters, good sub-plots - political /romantic /surreal. recommended!
Published 20 months ago by M. Royle
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, funny and uplifting
A really fun and engaging read, perfect if you need a break from novels with depressing or heavy subjects, of which there are many. Read more
Published on 9 Jan 2011 by Rose Maroc
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny book
I really enjoyed this book - it even made me laugh out loud which very few books do. The characters are fun and the story is quick moving, imaginative, told in a way which evokes... Read more
Published on 8 Oct 2010 by Johnny Yen
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing debut!
I can't really add more to the precis that other readers have supplied... Suffice it to say that this novel both entranced me with its plotline and characterisation, and impressed... Read more
Published on 18 Sep 2010 by Hexhem
5.0 out of 5 stars Latin American lives & loves
This is Kirstan Hawkin's first book, apparently, but I can't help feeling that she's written prolifically before (maybe there are some secret earlier novels hidden in the attic? Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2010 by Deptford Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining.
What a lovely, refreshing read. One of the most entertaining books I have read in a long time, very well written in an easy thoroughly enjoyable style. Read more
Published on 14 July 2010 by Diane
5.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable book
This book has so many great characters: the doctor in his brand new clinic with no patients, the hippie gringo standing on his head in the village square, the elderly village men... Read more
Published on 4 July 2010 by VCBF (Val)
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely charming. Buy it!!!
The setting for this book is a fictional remote town in Bolivia relatively cut off from the modern world. Read more
Published on 31 May 2010 by Alice in Wonderland
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