Given that Christmas is now mere days away added to the fact that I have twins who will be turning ten tomorrow, I’ll be signing off now for a week and will be back at the end of the month with my Books of the Year (if I ever decide on them!)
For now, I’m going to leave you with a list of some alternative Christmas reading for the more melancholy amongst us at this festive time. Here are the outsiders, loners and those with broken hearts. Happy Christmases get a lot of press, but I’m drawn to reading about those who don’t have it easy and whose lives are far from perfect.
Christmas Day by Paul Durcan
Paul Durcan’s book length poem Christmas Day is top of my list because I reread it every year. It was my beloved Dad’s favourite and has become one of mine. With humour and tenderness, Durcan details spending Christmas with his friend Frank, both alone, both trying to make the best of it. He muses on his past, the poem twinkling with precious memories like Christmas lights shining in the dark. It is funny, moving and melancholic and if you get a chance to hear the audio version read by Durcan himself, then you are in for a treat.
The Twelve Terrors of Christmas by John Updike
John Updike’s wry observations paired with Edward Gorey’s off-kilter illustrations make for a decidedly different festive reading experience! From impractical miniature reindeer to alcoholic Santa’s Updike expores the more disappointing side of this most wonderful time of the year!
Mr Ives Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos
Oscar Hijuelos is most well known for his loud, brash, vibrant novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, but Mr Ives Christmas sees him in quieter, more reflective form. Edward Ives is a good man, who sees the good in others and cherishes his faith. His good life is shattered when his son is shot on the way home from choir practice just before Christmas. Grief stricken, Mr Ives questions everything he thought he knew and this beautiful novel is a compassionate, tender tale of faith, familial love and, above all, forgiveness.
The Seafarer by Conor McPherson
It is Christmas Eve in the Sharkin house in Dublin, and a group of men, all single, all lonely have come together to see in Christmas Day with whiskey and poker. However, it’s not the Baby Jesus who is coming to see them this Christmas Eve; it is the Devil who has, quite literally, come for Sharkey’s soul. McPherson crafts plays with astonishing insight into male loneliness and isolation, the need for humans to tell their stories and for those stories to be heard. As always, McPherson uses the supernatural as a gateway to the spiritual and comedy to highlight the pain of the human condition.
Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson
Not quite as melancholic as the rest of my selection, Winterson’s twelve festive tales feature Christmas crackers, misteltoe and Christmas recipes, but there are also ghosts and haunted houses to darken the happy spirits!
The Green Road by Anne Enright
A novel about a family coming together at Christmas, Enright’s The Green Road is the third person narrative of the Madigan family set in pre Celtic Tiger era Ireland. Reading like a series of interconnected short stories, the novel is a moving look at the undeniable family ties that bind and also contains what must be the greatest ever piece of writing about doing the Big Christmas Shop.
A Serious Talk by Raymond Carver
Not especially festive, but set at Christmas time, A Serious Talk taks place on the day after Christmas as Burt tries to explain away his bad behaviour of the day before to his estranged wife Vera. Christmas puts a strain on even the best of relationships and Carver shows what that pressure can do when things aren’t going well in the first place!
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
No one deals with memory, and the rose tint we can add to it, quite like Truman Capote. This short story, originally published in Mademoiselle magazine, focuses on a boy, Buddy and his cousin Sook and their last Christmas together. It may or may not be autobiographical, but it is undoubtedly heartbreaking and a classic I look forward to reading to my kids.
I hope you all have a safe and Happy Christmas, it’s not going to be what we are used to but let’s celebrate all the same.
‘Some day soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow’.
Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, now x
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!