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4.3 out of 5 stars86
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 7 November 2012
Joanne Harris' latest book, the enticingly named 'A Cat, A Hat and a Piece of String' is a wonderful collection of her short stories and a book which demonstrates, yet again, the author's talent as a teller of imaginatively superior tales.

There is an interesting introduction to this collection, where Joanne Harris explains how she chose her title and, in addition to the main introduction, Harris also includes a short intro to each story - the first of which starts with "Stories are like Russian dolls: open them up and in each one you'll find another story" which leads us nicely into: 'River Song'. This story is the absorbing coming of age tale of Ngok and Catfish and Catfish's gang, which is set in Brazzaville, in the Congo. When Ngok is in danger of being excluded from the gang of children who earn their living by jumping into the river and riding the rapids for the entertainment of tourists, she decides to challenge Catfish by persuading him to take part in a very perilous bet with the proviso that if she wins, she stays in the gang. When Catfish takes up the challenge and ends up in very real danger, does Ngok opt to help him, or does she decide to take the glory for herself?

In the heart-warming tale 'Faith and Hope Fly South' we meet two lovely, elderly ladies living in a rest home, who are trying to cope with the indignities of old age when they still feel young at heart. When they are punished for a misdemeanor (escaping from the home and taking a trip to London) by being left out of a coach outing to Blackpool, our ladies try bravely not to show how upset they are; but then something happens which changes their day alone at the home entirely. We meet these ladies again later on the book in another short story: 'Faith and Hope Get Even' which is a very entertaining and amusing tale. In the very poignant: 'Would You Like to Reconnect' we meet a mother who continues her close relationship with her only son when he goes to university by getting online and keeping in touch through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. When a tragedy befalls them, the mother manages to keep going purely through a rather unusual online connection, which might encourage us to ask the question "Is there anybody there?" in quite a different way. And in the story: 'Cookie' we read of one woman's dark and complex relationship with food - a sad and rather unsettling tale of an obsession that might just put you off cupcakes. One of my favourites was the interestingly titled: 'Dee Eye Why' which is the involving and rather creepy story of a man who, after his marriage break-up, pours all his love and energy into restoring an atmospheric old house; and these are just some of the stories in this entertaining collection.

In common with many short story collections, some of these stories are more satisfying than others, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed all of the tales in this attractively presented edition. I intended to keep this in the car to read whilst waiting to collect my son, but once I started the book I had to bring it indoors and read the whole lot in one very greedy gulp. Charming, imaginative, mystical, poignant and amusing, this collection of stories makes for a perfect bedtime or fireside companion - and would make someone a great present for Christmas.

4 Stars.

N.B: The stories in this collection are: /River Song/Faith and Hope Fly South/There's No Such Place as Bedford Falls/Would You Like to Reconnect/Rainy Days and Mondays/Dryad/Harry Stone and the 24-Hour Church of Elvis/The Ghosts of Christmas Present/Wildfire in Manhattan/Cookie/Ghosts in the Machine/Dee Eye Why/Muse/The Game/Faith and Hope Get Even/Road Song/.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 May 2014
I've never read anything by Joanne Harris before and I am a very picky person when it comes to short stories. So, I picked this from my local library and finished it within a few days (savouring the book). After I finished this wonderful collection I must say: Ms Harris knows how to tell a good story! Yes, some stories are better than the others, some are inspiring and some you read and forget almost immediately. BUT what kinda blew me away is the author's ability to talk in so many voices - the stories are so different I found it hard to believe they were written by the same person. The atmosphere, the topics, the language, the narrative - I thought it is a rare skill to have this ability (and imagination) to enable one person to literally speak with such different voices. Joanne Harris is some sort of ventriloquist! She has all this different characters and yet it is her, a single author, who speaks for them.

"Faith and Hope Fly South", "Cookie", "Muse" and "Dee Eye Why" particularly grabbed my attention. And "Would You Like to Reconnect" put me into a thoughtful mood.

P.S. I was just searching Google for a table of contents of "A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String" to mention names of the stories that I liked the most, and what do you know, Google has actually have some of the stories from this book available for all to read through their Google books project! Check it out :)
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on 5 April 2013
Each one of these short stories is a precious gem: stunning prose, enchanting characterisation, imaginative plots. I normally prefer to read a full length novel rather than short stories, but I am thoroughly enjoying A Cat, a Hat, and a Piece of String.
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on 19 March 2014
This is a collection of short stories, varied and thought-provoking. The range of subjects is surprising, for example there is a story about children riding the rapids in a river in Africa, another about a man obsessed with the restoration and history of an old house to the exclusion of all else.
Each one is digestible and satisfying in one sitting.
I would recommend this book highly.
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on 1 May 2014
There is no doubt that Joanne Harris is a class act & this wonderful book of short stories just proves my point. Her skill in storytelling is rare & beautiful.

The stories are quite varied so choosing a favourite is hard but I have to say that I particularly liked Faith & Hope, 2 old ladies with spirit & character.

A great book!
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OK, so a book of short stories could be picked up for one story and put down at the end of the story. No chance. I love Joanne Harris' writing and this was particularly rewarding. And two stories about Faith and Hope was a treat, particularly as they provide wonderful role models for coping with the world in old age, and the way the world treats the elderly. Keep up the good work Joanne.
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on 28 November 2012
Joanne Harris does not disappoint as usual. Excellent variety of stories, all in Harris' inimitable style. Cannot recommend highly enough.
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on 3 August 2013
A good well penned set of short stories, that are neatly linked together. It's an easy, nice summer holiday read.
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on 25 January 2013
Anyone who knows Joanne Harris' work will be surprised and delighted at this collection of short stories. Unlike her other books which cannot be put down once you have started, this can be dipped into, read, chewed over and left for another time without loosing the thread.
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on 25 January 2013
i.e. "Good in parts." Some of the stories are better than others. Recommend for people who like short stories. I liked the ones that were set in an old people's home. Not so keen on the "gods" ones. Overall, glad I bought it.
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