Truman Capote's charming, magical memories of his childhood Christmas and Thanksgiving with his mother's Monroeville, Alabama family -- particularly his much elder and much-beloved cousin Miiss Sook, who thanks to her own child-like nature was mother, grandmother and elder sister to him simultaneously; but, most importantly, the greatest source of warmth, love and compassion of his entire childhood. In the book's second (individually, last-published) entry the Monroeville experience is contrasted with the one (sadly failed) attempt by Capote's father to make up for years of non-parenting, and seeing all three stories published together, the contrast -- and the boundless warmth of Capote's Monroeville home, and of Miss Sook -- is brought out in an even brighter light, (As an aside, it is easy, too, to recognize the place, and the traits of individual personalities, in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, which was inspired by the same community.)
Since this book doesn't merely include two Christmas but also a Thanksgiving memory, for 16 Festive Tasks purposes I'm going to use it as my book for the Thanksgiving holiday book joker.
Task the First:
– Read a book that is set in a snowy place.
Dylan Thomas: A Child's Christmas in Wales
Thomas's lyrical memoirs of his childhood Christmas experience, read by himself ... truly magical. One of the books (or CDs) that I revisit every single holiday season.
Task the Seventh:
– Read a book set during the Christmas holiday season.
Donna Andrews: The Nightingale Before Christmas
The year before last's entry in Donna Andrews's Meg Lanslow series: An uninhabited Caerphilly house has been turned into a show house for the local interior designers' pre-Christmas competition, which Meg has agreed to organize (her own mother being one of the contestants, and Meg's involvement as an organizer having been the price for their own house not to be used as the scene of competition) -- as a result of which Meg is having to constantly mediate between the contestants, who keep going at each others' throats hammer and tongs and are, as a whole, more unruly than a bag of wriggling kittens. It doesn't particularly help, either, that there's a student hanging around the place doing research for an article on the competition that she's writing for the local university newspaper, that moreover, packages containing the contestants' orders of items needed in their decorative arrangements keep disappearing, and that at last someone even takes to vandalizing the house and some of the half-arranged rooms, with merely a few days to go to Christmas (and to the advent of the judges). When the most unpopular of the contestants -- whom the others also hold responsible for the disappearance of their packages and for the vandalization of their rooms -- is found murdered, there doesn't seem a shortage of suspects ... except that every single one of the other designers seems to have a credible alibi.
A more than solid, tremendously enjoyable entry in the series ... having read Duck the Halls just before Christmas last year, I'm seriously tempted to hunt down all of Andrews's holiday books and read them, one at a time, before Christmas each year! She truly has a knack for combining a hilarious storyline with fully-rounded characters (however unusual), a homely and comfortably-feeling small-town setting and a lot of warmth, humor, and common sense. Highly recommended!
Task the Seventh:
– Grab your camera and set up a Christmas bookstagram-style scene with favorite holiday reads, objects or decorations. Possibly also a cat. Post it for everyone to enjoy!
Well, the cat preferred to watch the setup from atop the half-empty box of Christmas decorations instead of being part of the picture, but anyway ... here we go! (And yes, that's a real candle again. :) )
Snow Globes: Reads
... thanks to my mom, who gave me a bookstore gift card, my best friend, who raided my Amazon wish list (isn't it nice to know your loved ones know just what you'll be happiest about?) and a few odd things to which I treated myself:
* Die Briefe der Manns (The Mann Family Correspondence) -- newly released
* Anna Funder: All That I Am
* Ilija Trojanow (or Iliya Troyanov, as he's spelled in English): Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds)
* George Simenon: Maigret & Co. (collection of audio dramatizations of Simenon's mysteries)
* Edwidge Danticat: Claire of the Sea Light
* Jim Butcher: The Aeronaut's Windlass
* J.R.R. Tokien: The Lord of the Rings -- the legendary BBC audio dramatization starring Ian Holm as Frodo, Michael Hordern as Gandalf, and Robert Stephens as Aragorn
* T.H. White: The Once and Future King (audio version read by Neville Jason)
* Christopher Paolini: Eragon (audio version read by Kerry Shale)
* Patrick O'Brian: Aubrey / Maturin -- audio versions of the first six novels, read by Robert Hardy
* Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Dozen -- audio adaptations of 12 stories, starring John Gielgud (Holmes), Ian Richardson (Watson), and Orson Welles (Moriarty)
* Val McDermid: Splinter the Silence
* Michael Connelly: The Crossing
* Ian Rankin: Even Dogs in the Wild
... and, also courtesy of my friend, Eric Clapton: I Still Do -- and a kitty coloring book!