Sunday, January 18, 2015

Joanne Harris - A Cat, A Hat and a Piece of String

'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. Sensuous, wicked, mischievous, uproarious and wry, here are tales that combine the everyday with the unexpected; wild fantasy with bittersweet reality.
 From the house where it is Christmas all year round, to a ghost who lives on a Twitter timeline; from the Congo where a young girl braves the raging rapids to earn a crust of bread, to Norse gods battling for survival in Manhattan; and a newborn baby created with sugar, spice and lashings of cake, these stories will ensnare and delight you with their variety and inventiveness.

Comment: I borrowed this book from a friend who's a great fan of the author. This book is a collection of short stories, all featuring something that inspired the author, whether a foreign trip or the current trends of social networks.
There are several short stories, but I didn't like them all. Some of them are boring and I had to struggle to understand what the purpose was and after finishing them I only felt relief, not exactly the sense of a well spent time.

According to several reviews, I believe most readers agree on which are the favorite stories. Personally, I've liked three best, for their apparent realistic beginning, the truth of what moves a human being to act like that, until something else happens and the story evolved into something more, different, unreal, but slightly disturbing.
Despite having favorites, all stories had a sort of ideal purpose, something the author wanted to make the reader think about. Nevertheless, like I said, some were more successful for me than others.

Of the stories I liked, three were my favorites for their strange elements that make one wonder.
First, "Do You Want To Reconnect?", a story about a mother whose young son died and their twitter accounts are now full of sorrowful messages. But the mother misses her son so much, one day, the automatic program sends her a message asking if she wants to reconnectt with her son's account. But if he isn't there anymore.... This story clearly highlights the need we have nowadays to be in contact with everyone, most social networks users can't seem to live without it anymore and sometimes there's a thin boundary that is crossed. I think this was an intriguing story because of the urgency in understanding if we aren't becoming too dependent on what a machine makes us feel. But from a  human POV, the pain and loss make us do things, just like her mother, seeing replies where they couldn't exist...

Second, "Dryad", a woman falls in love with a tree and leaves everything else behind. This is harder to accept, I'm sure, but I think that we all must like or love an object or something so much we could almost exchange everything to the way that thing might make us feel.  I think the story is a good example of how someone's reality might change suddenly and we want to cherish what matters to us and sometimes we can't help it, even in detriment of the human connection to other people. Still, what a thought, if we could live only for a purpose to the point of forgetting who we are and who is around us...

Third, in "Cookie", where a woman who lost a baby and her boyfriend gets even with food, and eats and gains weight but can't accept her losses and starts acting weird without any grasp of reality. She eats and believes a baby is growing inside her again and she doesn't need anything else...
This story was quite disturbing because it obviously points out two aspects of today's society which affect people, mostly women, quite heavily, the betrayal and the need to hide a food addiction. In this story, the main character has to deal with both and my take is she lost her way and her concept of what was real. She eats because she thinks she's pregnant and she even thinks she eventually gave birth to something only the ex boyfriend sees but which I think is a bed full of sweets. This story was intriguing anyway and how sad some women find comfort in food or in believing in unreal happenings to support their minds.

These three were my favorites, some others were good and then there were the boring ones. The ones I had more difficulty to get over with. However, this book is a collection of stories and I've graded according to the full content, which I did read completely.
Despite this, the author's talent is easily seen recognizable and as always the stories feature interesting, real problems and situations, but they all have a sort of twist, the author's trademark. Even the stories without any extra paranormal detail have a special thing to them.
All in all, an entertaining read, but I've had better from ms Harris.
Grade: 6/10

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