Thursday, 11 December 2014

Thursday List: Christmas Books








What constitutes a Christmas-y read? I particularly like detective stories set at Christmas time: murder should be inappropriate at this season, but we all know better. Seeing too much of the family, stuck together in a too-small space, everyone fighting about money – it if just ends in tears that’ll be the best you can hope for. It could be worse.

1) Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie – a classic of the genre, and I always like to repeat my seasonal blog tagline for this one: Xmas Murder – En Route to the House-Party of Death. Tells you all you need to know really doesn’t it? See the entry here, but better still, read the book. 






2) 
Blood Upon the Snow by Hilda Lawrence - The best and weirdest snowman, and a highly un-Christmassy family. Blogpost here.



3) Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon is this year’s republished gem from 1937 – a group of strangers are stuck on a train in the snow on Christmas Eve. They set off to try to find help… well you know nothing good is going to come of that don’t you? My blogpost coming soon: meanwhile read crime writer and expert Martin Edwards on the book: he wrote a new introduction, and is overseeing the British Library’s choice of crime classics for republication.

4) The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens: Victorian setting, high drama, Cathedral city. At midnight on Christmas Eve, two men walk the dark empty streets of Cloisterham in a wind storm, going down to look at the river. The next day, one has left town and the other has disappeared. Unfinished, sadly, but you can supply your own ending.

5) Rustication by Charles Palliser – he has done several books for reading on Boxing Day with the curtains drawn and the fire lit. This one is the most recent.




But we don’t want to read only crime stories.....



6) 
Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs has been a favourite in our house over several generations, and still makes us happy, and makes us laugh. Happy Blooming Christmas to you too. 
***ADDED LATER: The Guardian has a lovely piece from Raymond Briggs talking about how he made the book: click here.




7) Mr Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos may sound like some sentimental twee book about happy holidays, but is far from that. It tells the story of a good man living his life in a difficult world, a beautiful meditation on what religion and faith mean, and how we can cope with loss. It is an intensely rewarding, extraordinary novel that shows us what great writing can achieve.



8) The Gift of the Magi by O Henry. A short story: small-scale, intense and just lovely, and if you don’t feel a tear in the corner of your eye when you finish the story of Della and Jim and their simple attempts to make each other happy - then you are dead inside.



9) End of Term by Antonia Forest – it should be just another posh girl boarding school story set in the 1950s, but this tale of the runup to the school nativity play is so much more than that, and the production is beautifully described, so you wish you were there.





5) And finally some blog favourite books that contain great individual scenes about Christmas:

Anne of green gables by LM Montgomery. I’m just going to say, puffed sleeves.

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – the Mole smells home, and the carol singers come round.

Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford – ‘my wicked parents turned up trumps at Christmas, and my presents from them were always the envy of the whole household.’

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild – Christmas means panto for the acting & dancing sisters.

PLUS

Elly Griffiths' Christmas short story about her detective Ruth Galloway, Ruth’s First Christmas Tree 





I would happily re-read all those books between now and Twelfth Night.




31 comments:

  1. Moira, I have not read even one of these Christmas-related books though I have physical and ebook copies of "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" by Charles Dickens, respectively. In the spirit of Christmas, I refuse to feel guilty!

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    1. Well owning them practically counts as reading them Prashant! Quite right not to feel guilty-- their time will come.

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  2. I agree, the Raymond Briggs is utterly unbeatable but have you read 'Christmas with the Savages' by Mary Clive? As I scrolled down your list, I kept expecting to see it - it's perfect in every way (the story of a prim little girl at an Edwardian house party - funny, orginal, touching), and also perfect for 'Clothes in Books.'

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    1. Ok, sold! I have heard of it, and obviously must read it. You keep adding to my list...

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  3. There is also Nancy Mitford's Christmas Pudding, set during two different Christmas house parties, & a lot of fun.

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    1. I haven't read that for years: good reminder and obviously a good one for the list.

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  4. Moira - Lovely list of Christmas-y fiction. So many people really adore books set at that time of year. Have you read Ngaio Marsh's Tied Up in Tinsel? I think that's another that might fit on this sort of list.

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    1. Definitely one for the list! I am planning to read and re-read more Marsh in the near future, so that one needs to move up the list.

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  5. I can't think of any Christmassy crime I have ever read in the past. I think I bought the Hijuelos book and possibly the Lawrence and promptly stuck them in the tubs.

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    1. You'd think there'd be some Christmas-y noir out there - relying on you to find some before next Xmas

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  6. Maigret's Christmas is also really good, a great selection of short stories some of which genuinely have a Christmas theme; and of course I love ghost stories at Christmas too. John Masefield's Box of Delights is a fun Christmas-set read as is Arthur Ransome's Winter Holiday.

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    1. Oh great suggestions! I wouldn't have thought of Winter Holiday, but that was one of my favourites of the series, and now I want to read it again.

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  7. So glad you recommended the Antonia Forest; her 'Peter's Room' (also brilliant) takes place entirely in the Christmas holidays as does ... now I come to think of it her 'Runaway Home'. I've just put a comment on another blog saying that I think Forest's characterisation is far superior to many an award-winning fiction writer.

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    1. How nice to find another fan - and yes, Peter's Room and Runaway Home both also fabulous books. (I did the 12th Night party in Peter's Room for the Jan 6th entry this year http://clothesinbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/twelfth-night-peters-room-by-antonia.html) And I couldn't agree more about her chararacterisation.

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  8. Wonderful list, great suggestions, thank you.

    One of the most entertaining Christmas stories I know is Stephen Leacock's Hoodoo McFiggins Christmas.

    http://www.online-literature.com/stephen-leacock/literary-lapses/23/

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  9. Some great stuff there and thanks for the reminder that I really will have to treat myself to the Palliser - happy holiday reading Moira!

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    1. I hope he might be right up your street Sergio - and I wish you happy Boxing Day reading!

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  10. Lovely list, Moira. 'The Gift of the Magi'! Yes! It's perfect. I second the recommendation of Maigret's Christmas. I also like Arnuld Indridason's Voices, which is set at Christmas. And then there's Nicholas Blake's The Abominable Snowman. Not sure if it is actually Christmas, but there is a very sinister snowman.

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    1. Oh yes, I read that Nicholas Blake years ago, I must get that one out. I will look up the Indridason, thanks.

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  11. A very nice and varied list, Moira. I read Mr Ives’ Christmas last year based on your recommendation and will re-read every now and then. And of course I read Hercule Poirot's Christmas, since you sent me the beautiful copy I read. Father Christmas is also a favorite.

    I have read two Christmas mysteries and one novella so far this month, and hope to get one one more in.

    I definitely want to try the books by J Jefferson Farjeon and Hilda Lawrence someday. I also want to read A Christmas Carol and try a movie version that I haven't ever seen, and hope to do that for Christmas 2015.

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    1. Thanks Tracy. Would you recommend the Christmas books you've read ? - I'm going to do another list of reader recommendations.

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    2. My absolute favorite Christmas mystery is Jane Haddam's Not a Creature was Stirring, the first in the Gregor Demarkian series. I read it twice and could read it again.

      From last year's Christmas mysteries, I would recommend The Holiday Murders by Robert Gott, a historical mystery set in Australia during World War II.

      One mystery I read this month was Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod. It is an old favorite of mine. Her first novel and an academic mystery. The other was A Season for Murder by Ann Granger, a fine mystery set among Christmas festivities. Both have skulls on the cover! I will be reviewing them this month.

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    3. Oh great suggestions Tracy! I have rad the Haddam - it's the one where he meets Bennis and her family, is that right. I love her books. The others are new to me, I will check them out.

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  12. I would also add Haddam's Not A Creature Was Stirring and Cyril Hare's An English Murder. For any GAD readers feeling a bit jaded this time of year I highly recommend the Robert Benchley collection A good Old-Fashioned Christmas, especially "Christmas Afternoon" ("God help us, everyone") and the preposterous crime story "Editha's Christmas Burglar".

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    1. Another vote for Haddam - nice to find some fans. And I'd forgotten about the Hare, good call. The Benchley stories aren't familiar to me, but I will look them up. Thanks John!

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  13. Ha ha. Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs is one of the best picture books ever published.I also like John Grisham's Skipping Christmas. But my favourite Christmas book ever ever ever is A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.

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    1. There is the most lovely article in the Guardian today where Raymond Briggs talks about writing the book: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/dec/16/how-i-made-father-christmas-by-raymond-briggs
      Haven't read the Grisham, but yes, the Dylan Thomas is lovely.

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  14. Thanks for sharing that link to the Father Christmas article. I enjoyed it, and shared it with my husband and son, who are both fans also.

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    1. Yes, Tracy and Christine, wasn't it lovely? I shared it with my family too.

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