Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Penguin Book of Christmas Short Stories - Edited by Jessica Harrison

 I bought this book last December full of enthusiasm for it, and innocent of all that 2020 would have to throw at us. Almost inevitably I managed to read the Angela Carter story that finishes it and nothing else. Then just before lockdown started again I saw the paperback edition in my local Waterstones an was hit with remorse.

It's another collection that I bought with me to mum's and I'm really glad I did. I have a few of these Penguin collections in smart hardbacks - they're one of the few things I actually want as hard, rather than paperbacks (still mostly unread, but they're just waiting their turn) but hand on heart I think this is the best selection of the lot.

It starts with Hans Christian Anderson, which sets a somber - if not down right depressing tone, and goes from there. It's a wide ranging selection - there's Saki and Damon Runyon who I love, my favourite Dorothy L. Sayers story. Laurie Lee and Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bowen and Muriel Spark, Shirley Jackson and Truman Capote - and a whole lot more. Basically Christmas in every mood I can think of.

So far I've been reading the stories by my favorites, but there's a whole lot names I'm less familiar with - some that I keep meaning to read and others which are totally new. It's a book to spend some time with and in either physical format is a sound investment for a bit of seasonal reading. The paperback might as well have stocking filler written all over it, the hardback is a really handsome affair.

Short story collections have been very much my thing for November and I don't see that changing in December. 2020 has often left struggling to concentrate on anything much for very long, I keep getting distracted by the news which has left me alternating between anger and sadness. It's also been the year of staring out the window and knitting small things so short stories have been a godsend for keeping my mind ticking over and reading new things.

Penguin have got an amazing collection of writers to choose from so all their collections are worth a good look. I have the Golden Age of the Short Story collection waiting for me at home (also a very handsome hardback, complete with gilding). It looks great, but because it focuses on a specific time period, doesn't have quite the same range of writers that this collection does - and it's that range, and that so many of them are favourites, which makes this book so special in my opinion. 

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