Friday, December 18, 2015

Three Christmas Books: A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig, Blue Christmas by Andrews, A Child's Chrismas in Wales by Thomas

Getting closer to being caught up on reviews! The following books were all purchases. I didn't receive any Christmas books for review, this year.

The tower -- the prison -- was a scary place. Yet, although it was horrid, it also had very nice comforting things written on the stone walls of the staircase, from its time as the Welcome Tower. Things like 'Welcome' and 'Strangers are just friends with weird faces' and 'Hug a human'.  [p. 128]

'An impossibility is just a possibility that you don't understand.' [p. 140]

Father Topo's words came back to Nikolas. You just close your eyes and wish for something to happen. Perhaps a wish was just a hope with better aim. [p. 152]

When Matt Haig said his new Christmas book, A Boy Called Christmas, was available for pre-order, I dashed off to look it up and discovered that it's not available in the U.S. But, of course there's a way around that: Book Depository. My copy arrived within days of its release.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig tells the story of Father Christmas. Nikolas is a poor boy in Finland (nicknamed "Christmas" because he was born on Christmas day) who owns only two toys: a wooden sleigh and a doll made of a carved turnip. When his father has to go away for two months, an abusive aunt arrives to care for him. And, when his father, Joel, doesn't return, Nikolas goes off to search for him with only his mouse friend Miika as a companion.

And, here, I must confess that I only remember bits and pieces of A Boy Called Christmas, which I liked but didn't fall madly in love with. I have a feeling I'll like it better upon the second reading because I didn't expect it to be quite so dark, but now that I've read it I want to read it, again. What I loved about the book was the way Haig took elements of the story of Father Christmas (or Saint Nicholas, Santa, etc.) that I've never seen explained elsewhere in a satisfactory way and did a marvelous job of spinning a magical, adventurous tale that explained those elements. There's also, of course, Matt Haig's trademark pithy wisdom, as you can see in the quotes above.

Recommended - While it wasn't a 5-star book for me, A Boy Called Christmas definitely has the feel of a new Christmas classic worth revisiting.

I bought my copy of Blue Christmas for a dollar when I ran into the local dollar store to grab my 2016 calendar. Naturally, I had to wander down the book aisle. I'm not a fan of Mary Kay Andrews, in general, but I figured at that price it was worth a chance.

Blue Christmas tells the story of Weezie Foley, a Savannah antiques dealer who is determined to win the local decorating contest. But, her first attempt is a disaster and then things start to go missing from her second display.

There's a bit of animosity between Weezie and her competition, a crazy Southern family dinner, a chef boyfriend who is constantly letting her down, the missing items, and a mysterious homeless woman who exchanges gifts with Weezie in what turns out to be a warm, sweet, funny holiday book.

Recommended - Maybe I'm better off reading Mary Kay Andrews in small doses. At 196 pages (including a couple recipes that sound just awful to me), Blue Christmas was just the right length and delightfully heart-tugging.

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas was the selection for our December F2F book group meeting and a reread for me.

A tiny book that other members said was a poem, it does have a lovely rhythm but I still want to call it a short story. We chose A Child's Christmas in Wales primarily because it's short and several of us had already read and loved it. In December, we gather around a roaring fire (fortunately, it was just cool enough that a fire didn't sound appalling, although I sat too close and kept sinking farther and farther into the leather chair, threatening to fall asleep), sip eggnog or wine or both, discuss a short story or two, and then just talk. It was raining and the 30-mile drive was, at times, terrifying, but I couldn't bear to miss out and I absolutely love the book.

We mostly spent time reading our favorite passages of this autobiographical story about Christmas in Wales from a child's-eye view, talking about Dylan Thomas and how short but accomplished his life was, and comparing copies of the book. Everyone had a different copy. I like mine (shown at left). It's small and the illustrations are just like the one shown on the cover, black and white They look fitting to the time period. But, some of the other copies were more heavily illustrated, one with fabulous watercolor paintings portraying the wit and humor of the artist and the story.

My favorite passage is a quotation by a little boy:

"It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea." [p. 22]

So very British.

Highly recommended - An enchanting, beautifully crafted tale of childhood that is often wickedly funny and one of my Christmas favorites.

I briefly reviewed A Child's Christmas in Wales in October of 2012.

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  1. I'm always so iffy about Christmas books, but I definitely think I'd try the Haig.

    1. I used to be. I've got a handful of favorites I return to, now. I think you'd like the Haig. His books are such fun.


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