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Lagraziana's Kalliopeion

This is a blog about my reads as well as everything related to them.

My taste is for good quality literature - old and new. Some of it I review here or on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany.



A Literary Christmas Around the Corner

Skipping Christmas: Christmas with The Kranks - John Grisham The Farewell Angel - Carmen Martin Gaite, Carmen Martin Gaite, Margaret Jull Costa Christmas Holiday (Vintage Classics) - W Somerset Maugham The Christmas Carp A Story - Vicki Baum

So here we are in December once again! The lyrics of a famous Christmas carol call it “the most beautiful time of the year”, but for me and many others the days leading up to the holidays are simply to busiest and most stressful ones of the year. With the hustle and bustle in the streets that is growing every day, plus the chasing for presents in overly crowed shops and children pestering from morning to night because they want this or that, it gets increasingly difficult to find the Christmas joy that we all remember from our childhoods. But let’s take a break of it all and retreat to a quiet corner with a good book… about Christmas.


There are many Christmas reads on the market, for the moment I’d like to concentrate on four of them, though, and not the most famous ones. Instead I chose a light comedy, a modern classic, a charming novel from Spain and an out-of-print short story by an Austrian author.


Writing Skipping Christmas the US author John Grisham certainly put into words a dream that many of us secretly have when the holidays are coming closer and everybody seems to go crazy with shoppingmania. For the first time in many years Luther and Nora Krank will be only the two of them for Christmas because their daughter Blair has taken a job in Peru, so Luther wonders why they should make the same fuss about the holidays like every year. Without discussing it with his wife first, he books a ship cruise to the Caribbean and decides to simply skip Christmas. Their friends and neighbours are perplexed and take an almost malicious pleasure in thwarting the plans of the Kranks... or at least in making them a bad conscience.


The story that the Spanish writer Carmen Martín Gaite tells in The Farewell Angel takes the reader to a remote estate, the Quinta Blanca, in northern Galicia where Leonardo Villalba Scribner passed the happiest years of his childhood listening to his grandmother’s fairy tales and puzzles. Ever since those days he has been under the spell of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale The Snow Queen which in its core appears to him the story of his own life. Like Kai he is incapable of deep emotions and often his memory fails him because without warning he tends to drift off into fantasy. After the death of his parents in a car accident, he visits the Quinta Blanca, which he sold to Doña Casilda Iriarte, to recover his past, his identity and eventually reality.


William Somerset Maugham sends his young protagonist Charley Mason off to a Christmas Holiday in Paris. All he wants is having a good time in the city of love and to meet his best (and only) school-friend Simon whom he hasn’t seen for two years. In a night club he meets a young Russian émigré who is referred to as “Princess Olga”, but who is really called Lydia. Misery drove her and other girls of good descent into prostitution although for Lydia it’s also a way of atonement for crimes that she hasn’t even committed herself. Charley passes the rest of the holidays with her and what he learns about her fate will shatter his childish conception of life and let him see the dark sides of human existence as well as the true nature of his friend Simon and his fanatic schemes.


In her short story The Christmas Carp the Jewish-Austrian author Vicki Baum revives Christmas in Vienna as it was in the years before and during World War II. The author made it her mission to acquaint a non-Austrian audience, especially American readers, with typically Austrian Christmas traditions. The protagonists of the story are the Lanners consisting of aunt Mali, who lived already through the penuries of World War I, the Lanner spouses and their three children Friedel, Annie and Hans who first appear as children, but are grown up in the central part of the story. The family is determined to keep up their tradition of an idyllic Christmas even when war is raging in the world, but their big dinner takes an unexpected turn.


Now these are the four Christmas reads that I wish to recommend to you today. I reviewed all of them in detail on my main book blog Edith’s Miscellany last year. Be welcome to drop by and read more about Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, The Farewell Angel by Carmen Martín Gaite, Christmas Holiday by William Somerset Maugham, and The Christmas Carp by Vicki Baum.


To find some wintry reads I invite you to follow My WINTER Books Special on Edith’s Miscellany.