I’ve read a few shorter reads recently and I wasn’t sure that I’d have enough to say for a full review without waffling on for ages. So, I decided to do something a bit different and shove a few mini reviews together in one post. It means that I won’t necessarily go into too much detail but that’s probably for the best. I’m still kind of undecided about how I feel about two of them and the third is just not the kind of book that demands an in-depth analysis. So, I’ll spare you the pain of having to read a messy full review and leave you with these little tidbits.
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
I’ll be honest, I haven’t read an awful lot of Truman Capote over the years. Everything that I have read, I’ve enjoyed but I just don’t tend to read classic American writers very often. I don’t know why but it’s something that’s happened. When I saw this new hardback collection I knew that I had to get it. It also helped that it was short and seemed like it would be a quick read. In the end, it took me much longer to finish than it probably should have. I just couldn’t get into it.
Although, it wasn’t anything to do with the writing. There is such a natural feel to the words and it all flows nicely. The way that Capote writes about his family is fantastic and I loved the stories about his childhood. I love the fact that his best friend was his Aunt and thought she sounded like an utterly brilliant person. This is probably why the first story is the best of the bunch. The way he talks about her and the time they spent together is charming and full of warmth. You can really feel the love.
The next two stories also involve moments from his childhood and, though they are less enjoyable than the first, I still think they are worth a read. ‘The Thanksgiving Visitor’ is a bit of fun and has a sweet Christmas message to it. ‘One Christmas’ is a tender look at a difficult father/son relationship. These are two more decent snapshots into the writer’s past.
It is the final two stories that I enjoyed the least. Both are fictional tales set around Christmas and I just found myself engaging with them less. It’s not that they are badly written but they just felt out of place in this collection. I wasn’t ready for the dramatic change of pace, which is why it took me so long to finish the book. Still, they weren’t terrible and made an interesting counterpoint to his non-fiction.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
I so desperately needed this after struggling with Truman Capote for so long. Before this, I’d never read anything by David Sedaris before. This collection sounded too interesting to miss so I decided to give it a shot. It’s a short collection of his most festive offerings and was very readable. I’ll definitely be checking out more of his writing in the future. Although, as with all collections, not all of the pieces were of the same quality.
I know that his “SantaLand Diaries” are the thing that made him famous but, to be honest, they were my least favourite part of the book. There was definitely some humour there and some interesting social commentary. It’s also heavily critical of the commercial side of Christmas which is never a bad thing. However, I just felt it was more pushed towards meanness than funny. It’s hard to get beyond the pompous and pretentiousness in his attitude towards the general public. It just put me off a bit.
However, I thought the rest of his stories were much stronger. There is plenty of dark humour here and I’m always a sucker for something that successfully flits between humour and bad taste. Understandably then, ‘Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!’ was my favourite of the bunch. it takes the form of a Christmas newsletter from a stressed-out matriarch who we see slowly descend into madness due to her complicated family life. It’s fantastic. As is the final story ‘Christmas Means Giving’ which sees two affluent neighbours trying to compete to appear the most generous. It’s hilarious.
I definitely felt that the two stories that dealt with Sedaris’ real-life weren’t as strong as the rest but that’s not to say they weren’t enjoyable. I just wasn’t sure about his character in them. Still, this is a perfect alternative to the normal festive literature out there. There is much less Christmas cheer and more weird humour. I’d happily read this again next year.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
Okay, I know that I’m super late to the party but I finally bought a copy of this book. I’d seen it everywhere. In fact, I’ve probably seen so much of the inside that I’d read most of it already. Still, I wanted my own copy and decided to treat myself for Christmas. I’m so glad that I did. This book is not only gorgeous but it’s so uplifting. Something that we all need right now.
This book is so simple but it is perfect. I can’t imagine anyone reading and not enjoying it. It is a book full of friendship, love and care. There will be plenty of things that readers will be able to empathise with and reading it will, hopefully, offer some comfort. This isn’t a story but essentially a collection of soundbites. Like a much better version of those motivational quotes you see on Pinterest and Instagram.
Then there’s the artwork, which makes up the bulk of the book. The hand-drawn illustrations are just astounding. The majority are simple line sketches but every single one stands out. It brings so much to the words and definitely makes the reading experience complete. This is the perfect book to get out whenever you feel lost or stressed. When you feel alone, these friends will remind you there is to celebrate in life.