Our Readers’ Circle group doesn’t usually meet in December, it typically being such a busy time. This year, not so much. So, we did get together, via Zoom, in a special meeting where we each read a Christmas book and told the others about it.
To many of us, the fact that ‘Christmas Fiction’ is an established genre was a novel (ahem) concept. But, lo! Google it, and great long lists of yuletide reading appear. Much of it is too sentimental for our tastes, but here are some of our favourite finds:
Humour was a feature of several of the books. Two of our readers chose a Canadian classic, Stuart McLean’s Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe. They enjoyed the light-hearted good humour of McLean’s beloved characters Dave and Morley, and because they knew the stories first from the radio show, could hear McLean’s voice in their mind’s ear.
Garrison Keillor’s A Christmas Blizzard offers similarly folksy humour — light and enjoyable. And John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas is the antic story of parents who decided to cancel Christmas suddenly having to rev up for the big day when their daughter decides to come home after all, with her new fiancé in tow. If that plot sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the basis for the Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis movie ‘Christmas With the Cranks’.
The well-known writer of Victorian mysteries, Anne Perry, is also the author of more than a dozen Christmas-themed works. A Christmas Return, A Christmas Odyssey and A New York Christmas were read and recommended, in part because they bring in characters familiar from other of Perry’s work. A Christmas Visitor is a well-written mystery with a strong moral sense that reflects true Christmas spirit.
Still in Victorian England, one of us read a Dickens classic. No, not that one. But The Chimes is also a story of supernatural visions that reveal what will happen if the central character doesn’t change his ways. Sadly, it also shows us that society’s treatment of the poor and downtrodden hasn’t really changed.
Shepherds Abiding, by Jan Karon, is another heartwarming tale, part of the Mitford series about quirky characters in North Carolina. Set on Nantucket, Erin Hildebrand’s Winter Solstice is the last in a series about a family who keeps an inn. A common trope in the more sentimental Christmas books seems to be death by cancer, and Hildebrand uses it here but avoids mawkishness. David Baldacci’s The Christmas Train takes us all across the States in a journey where the hero discovers love and himself. Not Baldacci’s usual fare, but a good read.
The most enthusiastic review of the evening went to Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. It’s a World War I story told in letters, about a young woman, and her brother and his best friend who go off to the front. It’s a well-written love story, seasoned with the tragedy of war.
We enjoyed our foray into Christmas fiction. So much so, in fact, that we’re thinking of reading Romance for February….