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Jigs & Reels Hardcover – 1 Apr 2004
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The quirky tales in Joanne Harris' first collection of short stories, Jigs and Reels, can best be summed up in two words: malevolent and mischievous. As with many of her full-length novels, Harris manages to cleverly combine ordinary--even humdrum--situations and characters with the extraordinary and the unexpected. Tales with a twist indeed.
Harris lets her formidable imagination run riot in Jigs and Reels. This is a rich and wondrous Pandora's box of the odd, the strange, the weird and the downright wicked. Many of her protagonists wreak satisfying revenge on the unsuspecting, in both comical and cringingly gory fashion.
Long enough to get your teeth into, but short enough to read in a flash of the eye, these 22 stories are startlingly different--from pensioners with a penchant for Manolos, to a magical cookbook that bites back; from school reunions with a difference to adventure games taken seriously. And what characters pop out of their slender pages, as large and as deeply rounded as in any novel. Ladies who breakfast at Tesco's, with dark secrets to mull over; limbless swimmers who fall dangerously in love, honeymooners who fall prey to the aphrodisiac qualities of fish, authors whose long-forgotten, half-finished novels come back to haunt them and lottery winners who bet on the ultimate, impossible odds.
In her introduction, Harris says she finds the process of short-story writing slow and difficult and accepts that success is never guaranteed. In truth, not every tale here works, but when it does, it is stunning--and in the spirit of one of her literary heroes, Ray Bradbury--lingers teasingly in the sub-conscious.
Joanne Harris is an anarchic storyteller, delighting in taking her reader by surprise and leaving them reeling. --Carey Green
'...tantalising and suggestive, and leave us wanting more -- SUNDAY TIMESSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
It's surprised me because I don't usually like short stories. I find them somehow unsatisfying, but having read everything else Joanne Harris has published, I thought I'd give it a go, and I'm delighted I did.
Chocolat is in my top 5 books AND films, and I've enjoyed Harris' other books to a lesser degree, but this collection of - often dark - short stories feels like it was written FOR ME somehow. Whether it's fantasy, dark social comment or little windows on the everyday worlds of apparently average people (no such thing in Joanne Harris' world, thank the gods), there isn't a story in this book which fails to bring it's characters to life, and to me seems to be her greatest strength. Many of the themes here are escapist, but the people are real. You've met them at school, work, walking down the street. But Joanne Harris has peered into their lives and found their humanity and it's this that makes the romantic, fantastic themes of her stories so real and gripping.
I appreciated the introductions to some of the tales as a glimpse into a writer's life, and thought each one was well worth the read, building up into a very attractive collection and one I would thoroughly recommend. Not quite as stunning as "Five Quarters of the Orange" (for me, Harris' best work so far), but well on the way there!
Roll on her next work!
Harris is an observer of human beings and touchingly translates this into her writing. 'Breakfast at Tesco's' and 'Al and Christine's world of Leather' are an example of Harris' understanding of the way people behave towards one another.
Be prepared though, Harris can lure the reader into a story of everyday events, twist it ever so slightly and leave you feelingly shocked and even disturbed as in 'Waiting for Gandalf'.
I throughly enjoyed these short stories and would recommend them to fans of Joannes Harris and to those first coming to her writing. As with her other books, these stories leave one with a feeling of having read something lyrical, poetical and meaningful while having been entertained.
Joanne's short stories feature suburban witches, a suicidal statistician, a cook-book harbouring more than just recipies, and a sinister warning for authors who leave their stories unfinished.
I would thoroughly recomend this book to anyone who wants something to dip-in-to, or an all-in-one-go read. I actually kept it in the bathroom, as this was the best place for 5 and 10 minute reading breaks!
It has also inspired me to finally get to work on some of my own short stories.
I've only given this book 4 stars, for the simple reason that I have none of her other work to compare it with.
Gone are the cardboard figures meant to be taken seriously and plots verging on the ridiculous. Here there is a collection of remarkably diverse stories - in content as well as style: wry, uproarious, satirical, strange, sad. I found especially effective the portrayal of people declining into old age and the opening story "Faith and Hope Go Shopping" had me hooked.
These are not just twist-in-the tale pieces: each is unique, a little gem, the test being that one wants to read them again, not forget them once any surprise has been reached. They are not comparable, as a collection, to the work of anyone else - and even individual stories which may be reminiscent of Saki or Bradbury or Gordimer or Munro are entirely the new Harris I regard with the highest respect.
However, I have two quibbles: only five of the twenty-two pieces avoid the first-person narrative and the short personal authorial introductions are unnecessary.
Whether you have previously liked Harris's work or not, try this anthology, especially if the short story, such a difficult genre, attracts you.
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Most recent customer reviews
I particularly enjoyed the gym story as it reminded me of all the people that run on treadmills but stay fat.