Jigs & Reels
by Joanne Harris Joanne Harris
Category: Fiction / Literary
273 pages; ISBN: 0060590130
Rating: 7/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Gail Cooke
British author Joanne Harris displayed a wicked way with a pen and a finely tuned inventiveness with her first novel "Chocolat." She's evidenced those traits since in such delicious reads as "Holy Fools" and "Five Quarters of the Orange." If anything those qualities are even more finely honed in this, her first short story collection.
Twenty-two stories, some perhaps more aptly described as vignettes, run the gamut of human emotions. They're dark, which won't surprise Harris fans, and they're also amusing.
Consider "Faith and Hope Go Shopping," the story of two determined ladies in an old people's home. It seems that monotony is becoming a bit much for this pair. After all, Monday is always rice pudding, and while concern for their teeth is appreciated, Faith can also think of some things one doesn't have to chew - oysters, creme brulee, foie gras. One day it all is just too predictable, so the friends break out and go to London in search of a copy of Lolita and a pair of Jimmy Choos.
Harris's retelling of the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of one of the Ugly Sisters is a treasure. Little could we have imagined what this poor woman has had to endure. Apparently it's even more devastating at Christmas time when she appears in plays and is hissed, booed, and "spat at by shrieking, sticky children with ice cream all over their faces." She's had quite enough of that, to say nothing of having to put up with Her Smugness (aka Cinderella who always wore designer rags).
Glad to say that there's also a happy ending for those not blessed with movie star features. Where this Ugly Sister finds hers is quite a surprise.
In "Gastronomicon" Harris returns to familiar turf - cuisine. Married to Ernest, our narrator is gifted with the family cookbook by his definitely strange mother. It's not just any cookbook, mind you, but one that holds very dark secrets and recipes that produce frightening results.
"Jigs & Reels" enchants with every page.
- Gail Cooke