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Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for…

Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

by Jeanette Winterson

Other authors: Kathy Acker (Contributor), Susie Orbach (Contributor), Ruth Rendell (Contributor), Kamila Shamsie (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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a collection of stories with a Christmassy theme (nine or ten of the twelve have supernatural elements, so I'm putting it in my sf basket). The stories are interspersed with reminiscences about Winterson's own life, and people who she has loved - deceased friends, such as Ruth Rendell and Kathy Acker; her parents; her wife Susie Orbach; and also Christmassy recipes. None of the recipes is particularly original or startling, but it's a nice extra set of content to put alongside the stories themselves. I had not read any of Winterson's fiction before, and I honestly did not expect the stories to be so funny. ( )
1 vote nwhyte | Feb 4, 2017 |
Well I must say that if you like a Christmassy read, then Christmas Days has got be one of the most Christmassy books around at the moment.

Twelve stories and twelve feasts for twelve days, it simply oozes Christmas spirit. The volume opens with ‘Christmas Tide’ an introductory essay by the author, ruminating on what Christmas is and where it, and all those traditions we take for granted come from.

The twelve stories which follow are a wonderful mixture, incorporating magic, love, ghosts and Christmas gatherings. There is snow, mistletoe, and mysterious spirits, a Christmas tree in a New York apartment, a haunted house a small silver frog and a SnowMama. There really is something for everyone in this collection. A recurring theme, perhaps unsurprisingly is that of abandonment, of unhappy children, a tiny child is found locked into a department store – another child returns to a cold dark house, her mother at work, unprepared for Christmas, then in a Dickensian style story of children in an orphanage we encounter sadness and cruelty, before the season of Christmas works its inevitable magic to set things right. Twelve stories are too many to talk about individually so I will attempt to give a little flavour of the whole book by focusing a little on some of my favourites. More of that later.

In-between each short story is a Christmas recipe, and along with the instructions of how to create the dish, we get the story behind the recipe. There is Mrs Winterson’s mince Pies, Kamila Shamsie’s turkey biryani, Ruth Rendell’s red cabbage as well several of Jeanette Winterson’s own favourites. In these recipes, and the stories behind them Jeanette Winterson’s personality shines through – where else this Christmas will you be told:

“… yes all unpasteurised. I could write a long essay here about bacteria, but it’s Christmas and bacteria aren’t that festive. So look up the pros and cons of pasteurisation once we’re past Twelfth Night, and see if I aint right.”

There is plenty to raise a smile here, as well as recipes you might actually want to try out. If you like cooking that is – I’m afraid I hate it. The recipes contain some great reminiscences, the story of Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas at Shakespeare and Company, the Christmases she spent in the company of her friend Ruth Rendell and we learn about Jeanette Winterson’s own traditions. If, like me you have read Oranges are not the Only Fruit and Why be Happy When You Could be Normal, you might be surprised at how much Jeanette Winterson loves Christmas, she even has happy memories of Christmas as a child, as it was, she tells us, the one time when Mrs Winterson was happy. There is a feeling of letting go of the past with this collection, I feel that Winterson is reflecting, and laying to rest perhaps, aspects of her upbringing, that she wrote about in those two previous books.

Incidentally if you love all this stuff as I did – you must listen to this episode of Radio 4’s Women’s Hour with Jeanette Winterson, Kamila Shamsie and Mary Portas – it’s a joy – I listened the other morning. I don’t know how long it is available for but you can find it here. For now anyway.

Also, because I read the book straight through, rather than just pick bits out over a longer period, I found the recipe sections a wonderful palette cleanser between stories.

The child at the centre of The SnowMama builds a snow-woman with her friend, they call her the SnowMama. When Jerry returns home, the house is in darkness, her mother still at work. Jerry’s mother is still grieving for Jerry’s father, and is unprepared for Christmas. Thankfully the SnowMama is on hand to help – for Jerry discovers the secret of the snow people, who come to life.

“They came to the city park.
All day long the children had built SnowMen and now the children had gone home and the SnowMen were still there.
They looked eerie in their brilliant white coats lit up by the brilliant white moon.
Then Jerry saw that some of the SnowMen were moving slowly towards the lake – where two of them were fishing.”

While some stories contain magic, which is not easily explained, the Christmas miracle at the centre of the story Christmas in New York is more easily explained. The narrator of the story is not really into Christmas, he lives in an apartment looked after by a doorman who he has only ever seen from the back – he must surely be dead. One of his friends Lucille is determined to bring Christmas into his life.

There are three great ghostly tales, which are always go down so well at this time of year, Dark Christmas, A Ghost Story and The Second Best Bed, will all deliver a delicious little shiver down the spine. A Dark Christmas takes place in a large old house with a little wooden nativity scene in the attic. The narrator is waiting for her friends to join her, only with the weather closing in, she is left alone in the house, as strange things begin to happen. In The Second Best Bed, a woman spending Christmas with her friend and her husband, is terrified by the appearance of a strange figure in her bed, while outside she hears a voice crying ‘help me’. While A Ghost Story is set in the ski resort of Mürren in Switzerland.

“I had gone to bed and was deep asleep when I heard it clearly. Above me. Footsteps. Pacing. Down the room. Hesitate. Turn. Return.
I lay in bed, eyes staring blindly at the blind ceiling. Why do we open our eyes when we can’t see anything? And what was there to see? I don’t believe in ghosts.”

The glow-heart, is a wonderfully poignant story of a man still mourning the death of his partner two years earlier. Marty needs to let David go, taking the memory of him into the rest of his life. Marty is struggling to do this – so it is David who must help him.

So, there we have it – the most Christmassy book of 2016? Well yes probably – and if you don’t feel just a little bit Christmassy after reading this book then there really is no hope for you. ( )
2 vote Heaven-Ali | Jan 1, 2017 |
I must confess to not being the biggest fan of short stories but when I saw this book I knew I had to have it. A mixture of 12 Christmas stories, 12 festive recipes with the tales that are associated with them, and Jeanette Winterson's own particular brand of dry wit made this an absolutely wonderful read.

The stories have a whimsical, magical and spiritual feel to them. My particular favourites were The SnowMama, Dark Christmas and The Second-Best Bed. The last two were ghost stories and sometimes I find suspending belief difficult but in the case of these two I found them absolutely compelling.

Of the tales of food I loved reading about Ruth Rendell's red cabbage and Mrs Winterson's mince pies. There was also a wonderful piece about the bookshop in Paris, Shakespeare & Co. The whole thing was wound up with a piece from the author herself about the last Christmas she spent with her mother and whilst it made me laugh I also felt quite sad, although Winterson has obviously come to terms with her difficult childhood. She's a truly fascinating person, in my opinion and a very talented writer.

This is a charming and brilliant book and is beautifully presented as a clothbound hardback. It truly was a delight to read and I can see it being a book that comes out again at future Christmases. ( )
1 vote nicx27 | Dec 27, 2016 |
This may well be the only Christmas book I read this season, and of so I am glad I chose this one. I loved every single story, though of course I had a few favorites.

The Snowmama, a magical heartwarming story with a wonderful message.
The Mistletoe Bride, a gothic tale of well deserved revenge.
Christmas Cracker, a wonderful tale that ends with the true meaning of Christmas.
The Silver Frog, a loose presentation of a Scrooge type story.
The Lion, The Unicorn and me, a humorous telling of the birth of Jesus, narrated by the donkey who carried Mary.

In between each story is a recipe and I also loved the stories that went with them. Here Winterson lets the reader into her life, her hardships, her new wife, Suzy Ormond and her traditions which a non Jew is now trying to blend with a Jew who does, not celebrate Christmas. ( )
1 vote Beamis12 | Dec 13, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Winterson, Jeanetteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Acker, KathyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Orbach, SusieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rendell, RuthContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shamsie, KamilaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Church, ImogenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the loved ones in my life who really can cook.
My wife Susie Orbach and my friends
Beeban Kidron and Nigella Lawson.
You can't beat a Jewish Christmas.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802125832, Hardcover)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? comes an enchanting collection of stories for the holiday season.

For years Jeanette Winterson has loved writing a new story at Christmas time and here she brings together twelve of her brilliantly imaginative, funny and bold tales. For the Twelve Days of Christmas—a time of celebration, sharing, and giving—she offers these twelve plus one: a personal story of her own Christmas memories. These tales give the reader a portal into the spirit of the season, where time slows down and magic starts to happen. From trees with mysterious powers to a tinsel baby that talks, philosophical fairies to flying dogs, a haunted house and a disappearing train, Winterson's innovative stories encompass the childlike and spooky wonder of Christmas. Perfect for reading by the fire with loved ones, or while traveling home for the holidays. Enjoy the season of peace and goodwill, mystery, and a little bit of magic courtesy of one of our most fearless and accomplished writers.

(retrieved from Amazon Sat, 25 Jun 2016 05:39:43 -0400)

A collection of stories written annually at Christmas includes tales of trees with magical powers, a tinsel baby that talks, flying dogs, philosophical fairies, and a haunted house.

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