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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 March 2008
I loved this book! These stories by Sophie Hannah grab you from the first; snappy in plot, with twists and revelations, they manage to portray the dark sides of obsession and secrecy. Each is perfectly crafted. The very first story, `The Octopus Nest', was one of my favourites, throwing the reader immediately into the mystery of a strange woman in the family photographs. They are easy and thoroughly enjoyable to read, told through a wonderful writing style. Some of the stories are very funny - I found `We All Say What We Want' absolutely hilarious; it flawlessly brings to light everything you've ever wanted to say to your boss but didn't dare, whilst highlighting the undercurrents implicit in conversation and office relationships that are never truly vocalised. Others are really very dark. Hannah manages her characters brilliantly; they are both to be empathised with and held in revulsion as they hover between sanity and madness. The stories keep tapping into the internal desires of the reader as the boundaries of normal social behaviour are transgressed. By turns amusing, horrifying, chilling and thought-provoking, but never for a moment dull, the range of stories is wonderful. I am now making all of my friends read it, and I thoroughly recommend it to any who enjoy great short stories!
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This attractive book with an intriguing title and a quality folding type jacket is a pleasure to hold and is so well constructed - each story is just right to read at a time. Sophie Hannah's style is very much to my taste anyway so it was a hit with me. I loved the hidden references to contemporary culture (a meeting with Ian McEwan with a character demonstrating to him the illness he wrote the whole of 'Enduring Love' about, a reference to "The Others" cropping up on the first page) Layered and well observed stories of human nature, a wow of a read. Each story one felt could be expanded into a bigger one- such a wealth of ideas - I am a greedy reader and wanted to know more about the characters after their stories closed. Because some are so much better than others - The Octopus Nest remaining in the mind for ages - I couldn't quite give it 5 * s. However this would be a terrific gift for an avid reader.
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on 9 January 2010
First off, I am not a fan of Sophie Hannah. I have attempted to read 3 of her novels and for some reason just couldn't get into any of them. I just found her characters unappealing and the plots very contrived and convaluted. However, I was intrigued by this book- a series of short stories all based on the premise of secrets. Well, I loved it! Its a was a brilliant read and I couldn't put it down. Some of the stories are funny, some extremely dark and disturbing, some just plain confusing and others quirky and so original that I laughed out loud. What I liked was the small snapshot of people's lives and how we are all plagued by that inner dialogue that tells us not to reveal our true thoughts and feelings to people in case they will judge us for them. I also loved the fact that most of the stories in this book don't have happy, "well, thats everything sorted out" neatly tied up endings. I personally like ambiguous, open to interpretation endings as I can use my own imagination to figure out what I think happened to the characters in the end. This was a brilliant read and I so wish that her novels had the charm, wit and originality that her short stories have as maybe I would have enjoyed them too. Great book.
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on 25 June 2012
I found this particular contribution from Sophie Hannah a bit tedious at best - might be just me but cannot seem to get into her short story collection at all.

Most stories do not seem to have a beginning, middle and end - just like a bit of string going on in a straight line...enough to bore anyone after a while.
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on 12 March 2013
I am grateful to the reviewer who mentioned this book on a review for (I think) 'The Carrier' for up till then I had been ignoring this title thinking it was another book of poetry. I can't pretend that all these stories are brilliantly conceived in terms of plot - 'The Octopus Nest' - as mentioned by other reviewers - is a very well crafted tale and I personally thought 'Kind among the Haters' was one of the most starkly honest insights into the social guilts/fears of the middle classes I've ever read. Others were more forgettable but still incredibly readable just to get a glimpse into the weird and wonderful ways SH's characters think and the strange taboos/habits which govern their actions - I suspect that is something we can all relate to as deep down I think we are all a little weird (apologies if it really is just me!)

I think that Sophie Hannah is at her quirky best when writing short stories, free from the restrictions which govern her longer detective novels. Probably more for those who enjoy her reading style than those who want suspenseful or cleverly plotted stories ...
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on 14 March 2009
This was a wonderful collection of short stories. I really enjoyed the first story, the prizewinning one, although I do find that it's a story that's only amazing the first time you read it. Some of the others are far better. My favourite one is 'We all say what we want' which as some reviewers have mentioned, was absolutely hilarious, kind of funny and sad at the same time. I also greatly enjoyed 'The Nursery Bear'. In fact, there isn't a true 'dud' among any of the stories.

I love Sophie Hannah's writing and think the upsetting thing is that if you think about it, her stories aren't all that outlandish. You can see human beings behaving in such a way every day, all around you. She manages to catch this eccentricity so perfectly, the book is very sharply observed.

By the way, another reviewer said that she appreciated the pop-culture references. But I thought the film referred to on the first page was 'The Village' and not 'The Others'? Or am I mistaken?

In any event, this is top rate work. Very entertaining and I don't feel like my brain has turned to mush after I've read it.
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on 27 August 2009
The first story was really good and made me think this was going to be a great book. However every other story went nowhere and ended with a pointless anti-climax. I kept reading hoping each story was going to be as good as the first but after the 7th one I gave up and felt ripped off. Really put me off reading anything else by this author.
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on 16 March 2013
This is clever, clever writing. The stories will stay with you long after you've read them. The endings will have you gasping - but in a good way! There is no predictability and each piece is a little gem. You are lucky if you haven't read it because you have so much to look forward to - I know I will reread many times.
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2008
Darkly entertaining short stories that are not so much stories as glimpses into hearts and minds - little snippets that, at different times, shock; amuse; confuse; and disturb the reader. Some are less satisfying than others (in terms of their endings) but the genre can be interpreted in different ways so this isn't really a criticism, more of an observation.

The first story is the only one which concludes in a truly satisfying way. However, the others certainly get you thinking and the title of the collection reflects what you will find within its pages: a fantastic book of everybody's secrets.
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on 30 January 2009
Sophie Hannah predominantly writes new crime thrillers and poetry which I haven't read yet (did you know that her mother is the author Adele Geras?) yet you could see both of these reflected in this collection of dark twisted tales. Her prose has a rhythm and natural flow and she manages to say a lot in a paragraph, also the plotting of these short stories I thought was excellent none of them seemed too long or too short they were just right.

`The Octopus Nest' is a very dark tale that won Hannah several awards and you can see why, the twist isn't until the very last paragraph and is genuinely creepy. Other tales feature obsession, jealousy, envy and madness. I don't want to give too much away so I shan't waffle on much more. This is an incredibly accomplished and entertaining collection of stories and made me run out and get her crime novels, one of which I must read soon. It was also the perfect book for escapism, I completely forgot I was in the plane, and have enjoyed reading it a home since I have come back. I might yet be converted to short stories, I will have to try some other collections at some point, if anyone has any recommendations please let me know.
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