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Jigs & Reels: Stories    by Joanne Harris order for
Jigs & Reels
by Joanne Harris
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In Jigs & Reels, bestselling author Joanne Harris has departed from her usual novel to present readers with a selection of short stories. Once a fledgling writer myself, I tried my hand at short stories and thought it was easier to write a full-length novel. A lot must be crammed into a much shorter space. The time to develop a character is not there and so they must spring onto the page fully formed. The action is compressed. Each word must be carefully chosen. Dialogue is clipped and meaningful. The lovely line that came to you when taking your morning walk must be deleted because it does not further the plot.

Joanne Harris's novels - Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners and Holy Fools - are art forms, paintings done in print. Reading her prose is like drinking the lightest of champagne while eating the darkest of breads. It's a treat to open one of her books. So I was hesitant to start on this one. Not that I didn't expect to be captivated. But I worried that I wouldn't be able to immerse myself in her writing as deeply as I wanted. I'd no sooner meet a character than I would have to move on to another ... I needn't have worried. What a treat. Her stories are as crisp and clear as an early morning breeze. All with a wonderful twist at the end. With a paucity of words, Harris skillfully presents a whole scenario that tells a complete story. She skips delightfully from one genre to another. There are monsters, suicidal lottery winners, nubile fashion freaks, manufacturers of erotic leatherwear - the gamut is endless. And remarkable.

In all of these many pages, the unusual appears, but Harris still keeps the reader focused on the protagonist with the emotions engendered by the storyline. Joanne Harris is talented and young. So I expect to spend many future hours devouring her latest masterpiece.

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