I mentioned multiple time before that short stories are not my favourite thing. Yet, last year I happened to read a few collections and enjoyed all of them. Somehow that still does not convince me to the short story as a literary form.
I was supposed to read The Everyman Collection of Christmas Stories in 2017, I bought it due to delightful cover, started reading it and never got beyond the first story: The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton by Dickens. So in 2018, as Christmas season approached I decided to come back to the book but also to change my tactics. Instead of reading the stories in order, I decided to treat the collection like a box of chocolates and read at random, depending on which story caught my eye. It paid off, I managed to read almost all of the stories (I let myself not to finish one that I didn’t like, with it being Christmas and all). As you can see it took me forever to review them, but here we are, still before Easter, remembering Christmas.
I started my adventure with The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle. Somehow I have not read it before, and as usual with Conan Doyle, it was an enjoyable experience. The image of a man carrying a white goose down the Tottenham Court Road will stay with me for a while.
The Burglar’s Christmas by Willa Carter was my second read (don’t worry, I will not write about all the stories, only those that I found memorable). A story of a starving, homeless young man pushed by desperation to become a burglar, only to be completely surprised during his first crime. It was an emotional and heartwarming story. It also made me realize that there seems to be a weird association between Christmas and burglars (apart from several stories in this collection, let’s just mention Home Alone). I wonder where that comes from.
Reginald’s Christmas Revel by Saki was absolutely delightful. Only four pages long it is a witty and sarcastic account of Christmas spent at a boring cousin’s house, full of sentences like this: ‘Her husband garden in all weathers. When a man goes out in the pouring rain to brush caterpillars of rose trees, I generally imagine his life indoors remains something to be desired; anyway it must be very unsettling for the caterpillars.’
Christmas by Vladimir Nabokov is a complete change of atmosphere and mood. A meditative description of a father’s grief for his son. It is very sad, expertly playing on our emotions.
The Turkey Season by Alice Munro is a masterpiece. She packed so much content in just twenty pages that it is unbelievable. A story of a teenager working as a turkey gutter in the Turkey Barn, during Christmas season, packs in the issues such as growing up, gender equality, first love, sexual harassment and homophobia. All that at a pace that still feels leisurely.
Christmas at Thomson Hall by Anthony Trollope is a hilarious story of a wife dragging her unwilling husband for Christmas with her family in England. She is a strong-willed woman, an intimidating one we may even say. Until a mistake, she makes while trying to obtain mustard to cure her sick husband’s throat. Warm and funny one.
Christmas Memory by Truman Capote is a gentle and atmospheric remembrance of Christmas preparations by a boy and his cousin. The boy is around seven years old, while the cousin is around sixty, but they are both set on delightful adventures. It reminds us of the time in our lives when things were simpler.
Crèche by Richard Ford for a change is dark and scary. It gave me the chills, very sobering one at the end of a lovely collection of short stories.