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Doña Nicanora's Hat Shop

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Dona Nicanora is a woman led by her dreams. She imagines adventures far beyond her small, swampy South American village, and ideally quite far away from her relentless family and neighbours. It's quite simple: what she needs is the love of a good man, and a shop full of her own beautifully handcrafted hats. But Nicanora's life is never quite straightforward. And from the d Dona Nicanora is a woman led by her dreams. She imagines adventures far beyond her small, swampy South American village, and ideally quite far away from her relentless family and neighbours. It's quite simple: what she needs is the love of a good man, and a shop full of her own beautifully handcrafted hats. But Nicanora's life is never quite straightforward. And from the day an entirely silent stranger arrives in Villa de la Virgen, strange happenings occur, and Dona Nicanora's world is turned on its head. Here is a bittersweet tale of hopes frustrated and fulfilled, with an irresistible love story at its heart.


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Dona Nicanora is a woman led by her dreams. She imagines adventures far beyond her small, swampy South American village, and ideally quite far away from her relentless family and neighbours. It's quite simple: what she needs is the love of a good man, and a shop full of her own beautifully handcrafted hats. But Nicanora's life is never quite straightforward. And from the d Dona Nicanora is a woman led by her dreams. She imagines adventures far beyond her small, swampy South American village, and ideally quite far away from her relentless family and neighbours. It's quite simple: what she needs is the love of a good man, and a shop full of her own beautifully handcrafted hats. But Nicanora's life is never quite straightforward. And from the day an entirely silent stranger arrives in Villa de la Virgen, strange happenings occur, and Dona Nicanora's world is turned on its head. Here is a bittersweet tale of hopes frustrated and fulfilled, with an irresistible love story at its heart.

30 review for Doña Nicanora's Hat Shop

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I see other reviewers have likened this to the work of Alexander McCall Smith, and I get that, but for me it didn't quite deliver on the charm. I see other reviewers have likened this to the work of Alexander McCall Smith, and I get that, but for me it didn't quite deliver on the charm.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ca Lamond

    I LOVE this book!! Such a wonderful blend of intelligent observation, humour and just a little touch of magic. It's beautiful. Be taken into another world where sharp distilled and focused writing combines with the simplicity, wonder and eccentricities of life. It's just a very good book and a very good read. I LOVE this book!! Such a wonderful blend of intelligent observation, humour and just a little touch of magic. It's beautiful. Be taken into another world where sharp distilled and focused writing combines with the simplicity, wonder and eccentricities of life. It's just a very good book and a very good read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    I have no idea how a book this bad came to be published. It was disjointed, confusing and so much thrown in that should have been cut out. I actually threw this book in the garbage after I read it. I read it because it was on a pile of books I'd been given that I was determined to get through. Should have received a medal for getting through this one. I have no idea how a book this bad came to be published. It was disjointed, confusing and so much thrown in that should have been cut out. I actually threw this book in the garbage after I read it. I read it because it was on a pile of books I'd been given that I was determined to get through. Should have received a medal for getting through this one.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Very good read. Great sense of place and characters.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chinoiseries

    [This review was originally posted on my blog.] Valle de la Virgen is a quaint little town in the middle of nowhere. The majority of its inhabitants is quite content with their lot, and the few who dream of bigger things leave for the city. Ernesto, eldest son of Doña Nicanora and troublemaker pur sang, is one of the latter. With luck as bad as his late father's, he soon cuts his losses to return home with a shabby pick-up truck and a grubby foreigner to show for his efforts. To his exasperated m [This review was originally posted on my blog.] Valle de la Virgen is a quaint little town in the middle of nowhere. The majority of its inhabitants is quite content with their lot, and the few who dream of bigger things leave for the city. Ernesto, eldest son of Doña Nicanora and troublemaker pur sang, is one of the latter. With luck as bad as his late father's, he soon cuts his losses to return home with a shabby pick-up truck and a grubby foreigner to show for his efforts. To his exasperated mother's relief, doctor Arturo takes him on as an assistant and as a companion, because no other villager feels inclined to seek out his medical expertise. The town-dwellers are so used to their own customs and routines that any impending change feels like a threat. So they visit medicine doctors when illness strikes and the men seek out Don Bosco's barbershop for a daily shave and chat. Yet ironically, the traveling market is utterly unpredictable, driving the poor city doctor to distraction. The Gringito, whom I secretly suspect to be a North-American yogi, is the pebble that disturbs the surface of quiet backwater Valle de la Virgen. With the money he pays for lodging and meals, Nicanora starts to dream once more of opening a hat shop... and there the trouble begins. The misinterpretation of a well-meant suggestion leads to havoc and interestingly improvised solutions. The book acts like a magnifying lens, so that the reader can discover for himself how remarkably normal these remote village-dwelling people are. They are nothing like the "dirty, uneducated peasants" that urbanites accuse them of being. Nor are they the "oppressed yearning for a(nother) revolution", as romanticised by the People's Liberation Front. Doña Nicanora's Hat Shop is a delicious, rib-tickling, wistful romp of a novel that cheered me up while the incessant rain was busy ruining my summer break. The colourful villagers touched me with their antics and were a gentle reminder of how life is always precious no matter who we are and where we live.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay Underwood

    Slow start, but really strong finish. Just the right amount of magic + realism.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie Goucher

    Each year the members of my bookgroup select two titles each. This month's selection was mine and selected in the same way that I select horses in the Grand National - because they have a nice name! The story is set in a small sleepy town in South America. The inhabitants are happy with their lot and the central character, Dona Nicanoras has always had a dream to open a hat shop. She is widowed and yet only in her early forties and she has known more grief as she as buried several children. Times Each year the members of my bookgroup select two titles each. This month's selection was mine and selected in the same way that I select horses in the Grand National - because they have a nice name! The story is set in a small sleepy town in South America. The inhabitants are happy with their lot and the central character, Dona Nicanoras has always had a dream to open a hat shop. She is widowed and yet only in her early forties and she has known more grief as she as buried several children. Times are tough. The sleepy village has very few visitors, that is until Dona's eldest son returns from another failed trip of making his fortune, he is his father's son! He brings with him someone he has met and this is the catalyst for change. From this moment on Dona considers with the money she has from taking the traveler in as a lodger that she could open her hat shop after all, yet, the mayor has other ideas and wishes to wake up the sleepy town and bring in more visitors, of course the consequences are that town does not get rich, only the people that have the money in the first place. I loved the characters and felt that they were portrayed as being vibrant. There were some great one liners from Gloria and Ramon. On one level the story shows the potential exploitation of places and people and that sometimes greed can consume all logical thought and overshadow all the great things. In doing so it strips away the very sole of something to the point of ruin. Ultimately, this was essentially a love story. A story of loves, those endured, lost and endured. The story of dreams, even if they come at a price.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Set in a small, out of the way, village called Villa de la Virgen within the swamps of South America, this story of Dona Niconora and her fellow villagers engages the reader from the very first page. Dona Niconora has many unfulfilled dreams in life. Her life has been full of mistakes and regrets and she now lives a dreary and uneentful life with her children and no husband. Niconor's greatest wish is to own a hat-shop, full of beautiful feathered, beaded and sequinned hats, the likes of which ar Set in a small, out of the way, village called Villa de la Virgen within the swamps of South America, this story of Dona Niconora and her fellow villagers engages the reader from the very first page. Dona Niconora has many unfulfilled dreams in life. Her life has been full of mistakes and regrets and she now lives a dreary and uneentful life with her children and no husband. Niconor's greatest wish is to own a hat-shop, full of beautiful feathered, beaded and sequinned hats, the likes of which are never seen in the village. Kirstan Hawkin's writing is delicious in every way and a real treat to read. Every character is described beautifully and the reader feels as though they too have lived in the village and amongst the people for years and years. When not one, but two new faces come to live in the village, so starts a stream of events that change life in the village for ever. Essentially a love story, and often poignant, there are some wonderfully comic moments during the story with some stunning one-liners from characters such as Gloria and Roman. This is an excellent debut novel. Very original, quirky, a little different but heart-warming with a real feel-good factor.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Val

    This book has so many great characters: the doctor in his brand new clinic with no patients, the hippie gringo standing on his head in the village square, the elderly village men meeting to drink at the barber's shop while the women pass pithy comments on life, Dona Nicanora and her family, the mayor and his wife. They are so well realised that you can close your eyes and see them going about their lives in the secluded village surrounded by swamp and jungle. There are elements of magic realism, This book has so many great characters: the doctor in his brand new clinic with no patients, the hippie gringo standing on his head in the village square, the elderly village men meeting to drink at the barber's shop while the women pass pithy comments on life, Dona Nicanora and her family, the mayor and his wife. They are so well realised that you can close your eyes and see them going about their lives in the secluded village surrounded by swamp and jungle. There are elements of magic realism, which I love, but not too much to put you off if you don't. Some serious subjects are present, poverty and unemployment, gunfights between revolutionaries and the army, tourism changing the traditional way of life, but the author's touch is light, she doesn't preach. I really enjoyed this book and hope Kirsten Hawkins writes many more. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    Everything that I love in a novel is here; lots of interesting, eccentric & noble characters, humour, quirky plot. I enjoyed reading this novel so much. Dona Nicanora enjoyed a sweet courtship with Don Bosco, but turned down his proposal of marriage and ran off with a bad boy, who let her down and destroyed her dreams of travelling the world. Many years later, she realises the folly of her youth. She tries to turn her life around by opening a hat shop, which affects the town and its inhabitants. Everything that I love in a novel is here; lots of interesting, eccentric & noble characters, humour, quirky plot. I enjoyed reading this novel so much. Dona Nicanora enjoyed a sweet courtship with Don Bosco, but turned down his proposal of marriage and ran off with a bad boy, who let her down and destroyed her dreams of travelling the world. Many years later, she realises the folly of her youth. She tries to turn her life around by opening a hat shop, which affects the town and its inhabitants. Set in South America, it is a charming story about realising lost dreams, politics, love and hats!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This was a joyous read. Kirstan Hawkins' writing style is light-touch and gently humorous, which balances so well with the poignant observations the story makes about human frailty, love and regret. The characters are rich and beautifully drawn, in all their qualities and shortcomings. The lessons they learn are lessons for all of us, and the way the story plays out, to its delightful conclusion, is full of humour, heart and joy. This book will leave a smile on your face, and a warm, fuzzy glow This was a joyous read. Kirstan Hawkins' writing style is light-touch and gently humorous, which balances so well with the poignant observations the story makes about human frailty, love and regret. The characters are rich and beautifully drawn, in all their qualities and shortcomings. The lessons they learn are lessons for all of us, and the way the story plays out, to its delightful conclusion, is full of humour, heart and joy. This book will leave a smile on your face, and a warm, fuzzy glow in your heart.

  12. 4 out of 5

    SanjeeB

    I was expecting there to be more about Dona Nicanora's Hat Shop, as the title suggested, but instead what I found was a cast of colorful characters and a bitter-sweet story about family relationships, friendships, political incompetency, loss, and love. No part of this story was boring or stagnant - it was engaging, and totally worth the read, even if the ending left a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. I was expecting there to be more about Dona Nicanora's Hat Shop, as the title suggested, but instead what I found was a cast of colorful characters and a bitter-sweet story about family relationships, friendships, political incompetency, loss, and love. No part of this story was boring or stagnant - it was engaging, and totally worth the read, even if the ending left a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Lang Greenebaum

    This is a sweet fable set in an isolated, picturesque village, with many colorful characters. It’s a quick read, very engaging and often funny; I really enjoyed it! Culturally it felt accurate (don’t know if it is or not!); it just felt like the author wove many traditional elements into the story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thais

    Molto carino! Una lettura piacevole che fa passare qualche ora col sorriso sulle labbra. Personaggi teneri e umanissimi, situazioni inverosimili e un pizzico di ironia contribuiscono a creare un romanzo senza troppe pretese ma ben scritto e appassionante, consigliato!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mary-lou

    I was given this book for Christmas 2011 and started reading it then...11 months ago! It is hardly riveting reading more a quaint little fable. It was a sweet story and slightly amusing. All's well that ends well... I was given this book for Christmas 2011 and started reading it then...11 months ago! It is hardly riveting reading more a quaint little fable. It was a sweet story and slightly amusing. All's well that ends well...

  16. 4 out of 5

    4duckie2read

    Dit boek brengt je naar een klein dorpje in Zuid-Amerika, dat je verlaat met een glimlach op je gezicht.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Frances

    Jeg kunne ikke så godt lide denne her bog, jeg synes den var for forudsigelig, og det var lidt for stereotypt for min smag.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisibo

    Very amusing :)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Smitha Murthy

    What a wonderful little book! I loved the atmosphere, the characters, and the story!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    if you like quirky books for example Louis de Bernières -The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and Rachel Joyces The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, then I througly recommend this. if you like quirky books for example Louis de Bernières -The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts and Rachel Joyces The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, then I througly recommend this.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Angela Smith

    A lovely read with vibrant entertaining characters.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    A colourful, easy read with just the right balance of comedy and feeling. A tale to make us think about appreciating the here and now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anne Lydolf

    Nice for a rainy afternoon, but nothing groundbreaking. A simple little feel good book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Silvena Chorbadzhiyska

    ... когато човек стигне до етап в живота си, когато не може да продължи напред и не иска да се върне назад, може да направи само едно. Да остане там, където е..

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    A quirky and entertaining read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chananas

    A cute and fun story, a real feel-good book the mayor and his assitent kind of reminded me of basil and emanuel of falty towers

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sue

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diana Brockhoff

  29. 4 out of 5

    Solvej

  30. 5 out of 5

    Faye

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