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Amaryllis Play Santa

Sadly, for my avid followers, this will be my last missive until next year. Frankly, from now on my life is just too taken up with seasonal celebrations to write a shopping list let alone something as thoughtful and erudite as this column… However, I have been thinking of my colleagues who just don’t live the party lifestyle: they will have time to read this Christmas and I have been thinking what I would give them were I so inclined; I’m not but, as they say, it’s the thought that counts.
 
So, here are my recommendations for my professional nearest and dearest…
 
For S, who I know loves nothing better than to snuggle down under the duvet with a thrilling crime novel, I would suggest Missing, Presumedby Susie Steiner which I am currently reading. It is well written and plotted but also has believable and sympathetic characters and doesn’t drown the reader with endless back stories. It is also surprisingly, for a crime novel, rather witty and I had to get off the train just as I have reached the denouement and cannot wait to get back on again.
 
For F, I would suggest The Snow Ball by the wonderful Brigid Brophy. Unfortunately it is not easily available but I know she would love it if she could get hold of it. Firstly, it is very short which is F’s preference, secondly it is about Mozart, sex and death… It all takes place over one evening – that of a New Year’s Costume Ball and is just wonderful.
 
For D – I have experienced Christmas with toddlers and any chance to read usually means a chance to sleep. So I would suggest one of the wonderful picture books to bring pleasure to both D and Young M. One of my current favourites is Three Little Monkeys by Quentin Blake with lively and funny pictures by Emma Chichester Clark. But I would also like to ‘give’ D The Abundance by Annie Dillard which was my favourite non-fiction book of the year with her stunning view of life and the natural world.
 
For JF, I would suggest The Poisoned Chocolates Case. JF is the world’s biggest Agatha Christie fan but she has read all those and it is unlikely there will be any new ones. The PCC comes from the golden age of crime but I have chosen this one particularly because as the title suggests, it involves a death from eating chocolates. Poor JF is currently forbidden chocolate and I am hoping this story will serve as a sort of moral and help her to feel superior as the rest of us greedily devour the sweets that usually accompany this time of year.
 
For JAM, who is whizzing through Vanity Fair and who doesn’t really get out much I considered Clarissa by Samuel Richardson… But, my previous suggestion of this novel for our Classics Book group met with such abuse that I don’t think it will go down very well, so I am going to propose a children’s book. It is one I have enjoyed very much myself and only yesterday bemoaned to T the fact that it had been well over a month since the last one was published. Anyway, the book is The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud and there are four in the series so she should be well compensated for her Cinderella lifestyle.
 
For FD, who is a reader after my own heart (ie the bleaker the better), I have chosen Tin Toys, a trilogy detailing the childhood and school lives of three sisters. But this is definitely not a children’s book as their lives are really quite awful and the opening chapters deal with the events of one of the most devastating Christmas’ I have ever read. It is a harrowing read but I think FD will really appreciate it.
 
For T, I was going to suggest the How to Crochet Star Wars set as she is a crocheter extraordinaire. However, then I learned about all the work she has to do over Christmas feeding and entertaining a great many people, so I thought the best present would be some time alone with Benedict so I am suggesting an audio book of Casanova read by Benedict Cumberbatch. If she doesn’t feel like listening, she can just enjoy the cover picture…
 
For C, I was trying to find a new shark infested book or gruesome horror story as is her partiality. I failed so have gone the way of sweetness and light and would suggest Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter in one of the lovely Pushkin classic range. It is a beautiful Christmas fable of two children who travel over the crystal ice to visit their grandfather and is a perfect antidote to this miserable year.
 
I would also recommend that everyone watch The Bishops’ Wife which is currently my favourite Christmas film with Cary Grant as an angel who comes down to help David Niven and Loretta Young. It is full of magical moments but especially when he and Loretta and Sylvester, the cab driver go skating on the ice.
 
Anyway, I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and that we can look forward to a much happier 2017.

About Amaryllis

 

Amaryllis is our bookshop blogger.

 

Her pen name is taken from Alice Thomas Ellis’ Other Side of the Fire, which is unfortunately and scandalously out of print. One of the funniest bits in the book is the bodice-ripper that one of the characters is writing and the female - who slays the men with one toss of her raven locks and one glance from her fiery green eyes as she strides among the glens, faithful wolfhound by her side - is Amaryllis! And the name just seemed to suit so here we are.

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