Writer: Joanne Harris
Publishing House: Black Swan
Date of Publication: January 16th 2014 (first published November 8th 2012)
Rating: 4 stars
‘’I see now that there can be no leaving. I am a broken clock, frozen forever at an impossible hour. Let others move on, if they must, if they can. For myself, I have duties to carry out. Sacrifices to make. Stockings to fill. Warnings to deliver. Lives to touch. Like it or not, I am the Ghost of Christmas Present, and I have a job to do.’’
Joanne Harris is a writer I cautiously approach each time I choose to read one of her books. Most of her novels are favourites of mine, like Chocolat and Coastliners and others, like The Gospel of Loki, are really bad moments of my reading life. Not to mention the fact that her personality through social media seems impossibly intimidating. I haven’t read Jigs and Reels but this collection screamed my name. Look at the cover and the title, the very icons of tales and winter. These are stories born through loss and sadness, the characters are ghosts and people who have become ghosts of themselves.
River Song: A story about children in Congo that risk their lives by leaping into the rapids of a dangerous river. Their reward? Scraps of bread and chicken bones.
Faith and Hope Fly South: Two marvelous elderly ladies who bring joy and hope to those around them and keep on dreaming of the future.
There’s No Such Place as Bedford Falls: A man decides that Christmas should be around us every day of the year. The people of his community do not share his opinion…
Would You Like To Reconnect: A mother keeps in touch with her son through Twitter. Even in the most horrible of circumstances.
Rainy Days and Mondays: What happens when the God of Rain and the Sun Goddess meet on a rainy summer day?
Dryad: An unusual love affair between a woman and a beautiful tree. One of the most beautiful tales in the collection.
Harry Stone and the 24-Hour Church of Elvis: An Elvis Presley impersonator who also happens to be a private investigator. I am not a big fan of Elvis Presley and I was not a fan of this story.
The Ghosts of Christmas Present: The man from Bedford Falls tries to cope with the loss of his most beloved ghost. A tender, sad story full of Christmas melancholy.
Wildlife in Manhattan: Joanne Harris, please leave the Gods of Asgard alone!
Cookie: A woman who has fallen in the abyss of depression creates a baby out of spice and sugar. This haunting, dark story contains two of the most unlikable characters you’ll ever meet.
Ghosts In The Machine: Two lonely souls come together through songs played through the small hours of the night. I loved this story. It reminded me of a more serious, bittersweet version of Sleepless In Seattle.
Dee Eye Why: A very particular haunted house story. I cannot say anything more because even the tiniest remark could become a spoiler. I can tell you that it was a showstopper in this collection.
Muse: Inspiration can be found in the most humble of places as long as there is warmth and unity.
The Game: The darkest story. A tale that will have you guessing with a healthy dose of heartbeats and agony. A game whose consequences are irreversible.
Faith and Hope Get Even: Our beloved elderly ladies stand up against a terrible woman and a major bully and show her what it means when your crimes are discovered.
Road Song: The curse of child trafficking in Togo and the hope of a change.
This is a beautiful collection, no doubt about it. However, there were a couple of stories that didn’t satisfy me as a reader and seemed out of place. In my opinion, the negative element in this collection is the characters. Some of them are so unlikable and irritating. Having said that, the roots of these stories lie in the human soul and the ghosts that haunt us in all their forms. The hopeful that shows us the way and the terrifying that reminds us of our faults. These are not the most memorable stories I’ve ever read but they are beautiful examples of the writing of a very interesting writer.
‘’Don’t forget your cat and your hat – and, with a long enough piece of string, you’ll always be sure to find the way home.’’