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I can't wait to finish work and have a summer break! Can you recommend some novels to get me in the festive spirit?
‘Tis the season
Christmas can function in literature as an event of dramatic potential: people are brought together to ritually celebrate the season, tired, stressed and perhaps a little tipsy, in which usual relationship dynamics are intensified and concentrated, in which the real is measured against an ideal, and in which Christmases past are ever-present. May these books act as an antidote, a distraction, an aspiration, an escape, or as pure pleasure, whichever is needed to make your own Christmas merry and bright.
· The ultimate tale for the yuletide is still A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, in which Ebenezer Scrooge is taught a lesson about the true meaning of the season.
· The March sisters embody the spirit of Christmas in their acts of charity, their selflessness and their anti-materialism, in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; it begins with them giving away their Christmas breakfast to the poor and ends a year later on Christmas Day with the return of their beloved father from war.
· The study of a modern woman is bracketed by Christmas celebrations which mark a year of entries in Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding, the ur-text of the chick-lit genre.
· Detective Roderick Alleyn is Tied up in Tinsel in Ngaio Marsh’s novel, set in an English country house over Christmas.
· Three short and perfectly formed Christmas stories make up Kate Atkinson’s Festive Spirits, with her characteristic mixture of delight and menace.
· Like a literary advent calendar, Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas Days offers 12 stories and 12 feasts for 12 days, with recipes.
· Becky loves Christmas, until she has to play host, in Sophie Kinsella’s Christmas Shopaholic.
· Recollections from his own childhood are the foundation of Truman Capote’s short story A Christmas Memory, set in the 1930s and told by a seven-year-old narrator.
· Will’s father wrote a famous Christmas song which haunts him earlier each year, in Nick Hornby’s About a Boy, in which Will endures a fairly tense Christmas eating vegetarian food, not watching television, and singing carols with his eyes closed.
· Seasonal mayhem and violence feature in P D James’ collection, The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories, full of cunning and enormously compelling.