Seasonal reading is a troublesome thing in many ways. I have a little pile of Christmas themed books that I’ve been given, am reading, or have just finished, but now it’s January there’s a certain pressure to be looking forward rather than back. On the other hand it’s still the depths of midwinter at least until the end of the month and it’s only now that I’m back home and have a bit of time on my hands that I’m ready to read them.
‘A Vintage Christmas’ was my impulse purchase in Corbridge’s Forum Books. (Corbridge, from the 15 minutes I spent loose in it, and the excellent lunch we had at The Angel looks like it’s worth a proper explore.) I’d liked to have spent a lot longer looking at what they had and talking to the staff but we had to go and it seemed rude to go without buying something.
I picked up this book because it was pretty, published by vintage, and had an interesting selection of authors in it. Beyond that I’m not sure I had particularly high hopes for it, but it’s turned out to be a total gem. Some of the chapters are extracts from books, and whilst I know not everyone likes that I don’t particularly mind. When it’s done well, as it is here, I think it’s a really good thing.
I’ve never particularly wanted to read Cider With Rosie, but I can take a chapter of Laurie Lee and really appreciate it. The same with Louis de Bernières. There are writers like Alice Munro, Anne Enright, and Helen Simpson, who I’ve always meant to read but somehow haven’t. This has been an excellent taster.
The classic bits - Trollope’s ‘Christmas at Thompson Hall’, a bit of Sherlock Holmes, and the goose bit from ‘A Christmas Carol’ are reassuring. I didn’t particularly read E. Nesbit as a child, discovering her as an adult is a constant joy. Raymond Carver on the other hand is the opposite of comforting, he provides an unadulterated sour note into the mix.
Altogether it’s been the most satisfying post Christmas reading, I also particularly like the way that along with an introduction to each writer there’s a short list of more of their work to explore. I know this is marketing for Vintage, but it’s also helpful.