Published by The British Library
Publication date – 27 October 2022
Source – review copy
In the night the snow came.
She awoke on Christmas morning in that unmistakable light, coming up from the earth and shining between her curtains.
Celebrate Christmas through the creative minds of a host of authors, including Beryl Bainbridge, Maeve Binchy, Richmal Crompton, Alice Munro and Elizabeth von Arnim. From the delightful consequences of decorating the tree by Stella Gibbons to a disorientating encounter at 35,000 feet on a Christmas Day flight by Muriel Spark, an amateur pantomime by Stella Margetson and a New Year’s resolution by Alice Childress, these stories are sure to fortify you over the Christmas period.
Stories for Christmas and the Festive Season explores the joy and exhaustion, preparations and surprises of this time of year from a female perspective. In keeping with the spirit of the Women Writers series, the stories are penned by authors whose writing originally appeared in books and magazines in the twentieth century. The selection includes the festive run-up as well as post-Christmas traditions and winter holidays.
From the chaos of Christmas shopping to unexpected gifts, brief encounters to final encounters, the stories in this collection cover every aspect of Christmas. There are promises of new beginnings from Stella Gibbons and portents of trauma and war to come from Elizabeth von Arnim. Maeve Binchy looks at possible strike action by a worn down wife and Muriel Spark depicts a journey home for Christmas with a difference.
As with any collection there are some that stand out more than others. Favourites of mine included Beryl Bainbridge’s This Year It Will Be Different, in which a wife is finally at the end of her tether with being taken for granted by her family, The Christmas Pageant by Barbara Robinson, where the naughtiest children discover the story of Christmas, The Little Christmas Tree by Stella Gibbons where a lonely woman is visited by three children and The Christmas Present by Richmal Crompton in which a receives an unusual but welcome gift.
The stories range from 20 or so pages long to 2 pages long. The skill to writing a good story is to balance brevity with entertainment. The reader doesn’t want to feel short-changed. That didn’t happen with any of the stories. Some were just the right length. Others I would have happily read a full length story featuring the characters.
What I did come away with was the knowledge that I wanted to read more by every author included, which goes to show there really wasn’t a bad story included.
All in all a lovely selection of seasonal stories that can become a new Christmas reading tradition.