My rating: 4 stars
Food and Christmas are indissolubly connected in my mind. Thus, I found the concept behind Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days wholly suitable for the season. Jeanette Winterson introduces this collection of short stories interspersed with recipes with quite an informative reflection on the origins of Christmas, a celebration that borrows elements from various pagan festivities. Reality and fiction are present throughout the entirety of the book. While the stories feature many magical and supernatural elements (snowmen that come to life, fairies, ghosts), the recipes have a real personal story attached to them. Learning about events from Jeanette Winterson’s life made me want to read many more of her books.
Christmas is the main setting of the stories, just one of them takes place during New Year’s Eve. As so often happens with short story collections, some stand out from the others. ‘Dark Christmas’ is characterised by the eerie feeling of being in a house where not everything feels as it should be. ‘A Christmas in New York’, about a thirty-year-old man who learns to appreciate Christmas, is another of my favourites because I could visualise every single action and location. The most atmospheric story is ‘The Second-best Bed’, which revolves around a woman who goes to her friend’s house for Christmas and has to deal with some strange events. I also adored ‘The Glow-Heart’, a story about losing a loved one and dealing with grief.
“Love isn’t a prison. You can’t be imprisoned inside your love for me.”
Although the majority of the stories are characterised by the presence of magical elements, some thought-provoking social considerations are also made. In ‘Christmas Cracker’, some people’s hypocrisy during this particular time of the year is exposed. They pretend to want to help others but continue to foment a divided society.
“This is the children’s charity party – rich parents have paid a lot so that their children can help children in need without having to meet any of them.”
Overall, I enjoyed the stories in this collection. The only one that I wasn’t too keen on was ‘A Ghost Story’, which focuses on a group of friends enjoying the holidays in a ski resort. Unfortunately, the characters didn’t feel as real as in the other tales.
Next Christmas I will probably pick up this book again. Not to reread it, but to try cooking a recipe or two.