Thursday, 25 October 2007

Christmas BOOKings now being taken

It's the 25th, and you know what that means - only two months until Christmas. Yep, usually I'm there with the Grumpy Old Men and complaining that Christmas comes earlier every year, with tinsel going up as soon as the Easter eggs have been melted down for fondue. But I'll make an exception for books, as it's not their fault that marketing has to happen in October. Today I'm going to chat about two different Christmas books - very different, actually, but both worth mentioning.
This week, like a couple of other bloggers, I was sent Lynn Brittney's Christine Kringle, described as a book for children of all ages. All the Gift Bringers from around the world are meeting for the annual Yule Conference, which debates such issues as whether Gift Days should be internationally universalised, or whether women can be become the hereditary Gift Bringer if a Yule family have no male offspring. This is especially important to Christine, daughter of Kriss Kringle, as she has no brothers and wishes to inherit her Yule duty. In the midst of this, the council of Plinkbury, a town in Worcestershire (hurray!) decide to ban Christmas. Off flies Christine and her Japanese and English friends to get Christmas reinstated... An enjoyable book, though not my usual fare, and was delighted to see Worcestershire get in print, as it was my homeland for thirteen years. Can't work out if Plinkbury is based on a genuine town, though... there certainly isn't one of that name. Unsurprising, really.
When I started the book, I was a little dubious at all the national stereotypes. You know - Italians in the Mafia; British sullen; Japanese polite and industrious; Americans saving the day. But Brittney melds these characters into a fun plot which keeps you turning the pages. I do have quibbles with the polemics Christine delivers - as a Christian, I didn't like to see the Christ part of CHRISTmas swept under the carpet so much, quite openly, and I'm too British not to blush at some of the bits about loving ourselves and finding a hero inside every one of us and so forth. But if you're feeling Christmassy and uncynical, give this one a go.

The second Christmas book I wanted to mention is Jostein Gaarder's The
Christmas Mystery, initially published in 1992. The book is divided into 24, being the first twenty-four days of Decemver - like a big advent calendar, in fact. The central character, a little boy called Joachim, is given a mysterious old advent calendar - each day opened provides a slip of paper and a picture. Through the story on the bits of paper, we follow Elisabet as she wends her way through the shepherds and wisemen as they journey towards Christ's Nativity - and Joachim's family try to connect it to the Elisabet who disappeared at Christmas 1948. This is a beautiful book, with mystery and atmosphere and the magic of Christmas without making the festival commercial or saccharine. I read it last year, a chapter a day through advent, and would definitely recommend reading it that way.

Oh, and don't forget you still have a chance to get Miss Hargreaves!

6 comments:

  1. Oh, we're on the same wavelength again! The Christmas book I thought of writing about is The Christmas Mystery, a beautiful book.

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  2. Christmas is so completely commercialized over here (maybe in the UK too?) that I tend not to read books about it, so Lynn's book was a bit off the beaten path for me as well. I'll have to see if I can find The Christmas Mystery--your description does sound appealing.

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  3. Thank you for mentioning The Christmas Mystery, it sounds wonderful. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog - particularly your 50 Books... list. I am currently reading The Provincial Lady which I had heard of but which your post prompted me to pick up. Immensely readable!

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  4. Both of those sound great - I'll have to think about stocking them in the shop this Christmas. Particularly interested that the first book is set in Worcestershire - I grew up there and my family still live there and it almost never appears in literature. Or in anything else for that matter.

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  5. Your posting about Christmas books has prompted me to get mine out and put them on a special shelf for the next few weeks. I bought The Christmas Mystery when it first came out, and it has gone unread for all these years. It is now in the kitchen next to the reading chair and will be my first Christmas book, with my thanks to you.

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