Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of books on: Christmas spirit

Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Christmas spirit

  • Patricia Nicol admits that she spent most of the past week in bed, convalescing
  • Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason is of this year’s most talked-about novels
  • Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is set in a small Irish town, in 1985

I have spent much of the past week in bed, convalescing. Meanwhile, my husband has had to double up domestically, taking on the laundry, as well as the cooking, ferrying cups of tea, taking messages from people I don’t feel up to talking to and sorting a Christmas tree.

I feel lucky, blessed even, not least because he has done all this in a very undemonstrative fashion.

We both know that if it was him lolling around and me doing the caring, it would be a brusquer service. There might be eye-rolling, a bit more huffing and puffing as I fulfilled another importunate request, an intemperate ‘I’m just coming!’ shouted up the stairs as I wearied of being helpful.

And so, in a spirit of loving gratitude, here are some stories of December acts of kindness.


Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason is one of this year’s most-talked about novels, and Small Things Like These, is one of Patricia’s favourite recent books

One of my favourite recent books is Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan. It is set in a small Irish town, in 1985, in the run-up to Christmas.

Having come from humble, even scandalous origins, coal merchant Bill Furlong has reason to feel proud of his family, home and community standing. When delivering coal to the convent, he is unsettled by what he encounters. Should he act?

In the heart-wakening title story of The Tenth Of December by George Saunders, a boy, being bullied at school and out for a winter walk near his home, sees a frail-looking man with no coat. The man means to unburden himself of more than his jacket, but sometimes goodness can stop a person in their tracks.

Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason is one of this year’s most-talked about novels. Its narrator, Martha, always spends Christmas at her Aunt Winsome’s house in Belgravia.

As a teenager, she meets her future husband, Patrick, there. He is brought home from boarding school by Martha’s cousin, Oliver, after his father forgot to buy a flight to Hong Kong. Despite being an unexpected guest, Patrick is delighted to receive a gift. ‘Winsome was someone who took care . . .’ recalls Martha, later.

This Christmas is shaping up to be tricky. Be someone who takes care: everyone prefers a saint to a martyr.

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