Florence’s Gift Guide: The Literary Edition

Please welcome Rachel back this month with another installment of Florence’s Book Club – her selection of books for December. It’s not a true gift guide, but the books have been selected with the Christmas season and Christmas gifts in mind. Thank you Rachel!

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Published this year yet set in 1920’s Alaska. A heart warming story about Jack and Mabel who move to Alaska to start a new life. It’s one of those magical books where the reader is unwrapping a story within a story. A true winter book – the protagonists are warmly nestled in their cabin, only going out if they need to for food, knowing the hardship of a long cold winter. It reminds you of the importance of good neighbours, hoping and healing. Of joy and not knowing, nor necessarily planning, where life is going to lead you. The greatest recommendation is that the day after I finished it I found myself missing Jack, Mabel and community. A book that makes the people feel like friends.

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry: Strachan & Quinn Auctioneers (by Leanne Shapton)

My husband bought this for me a few Christmas’ ago having heard it reviewed on the radio. This book is set out as an auction catalogue, so there are lots of photographs and not many words, and it tells the intense love affair and relationship of Lenore and Harold. A couple who live in New York in 2002 when she’s a 22 year old journalist and he a 39 year old photographer. It catalogues their meeting, their relationship and the moments the cracks begin to show and the relationship ends. It’s clever, it’s wonderful and a highly unusual way of telling a story.

Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm (Vintage Classics) by Stella Gibbons

Although the title suggests that it will be about Christmas and will return us to our friends from Gibbons’ famous book Cold Comfort Farm, it’s a little misleading. It’s a book of short stories where there is one story about the farm and a couple about Christmas. All are gentle and oh so very rural England in the 1930’s but each has its own undercurrent of emotion. I’m really enjoying dipping into these short stories in the lead up to Christmas and could imagine enjoying them lazing leisurely on the sofa with a blanket and just another mince pie or two in the lull after Christmas.

‘…bedding the shapely little tree into a flower-pot and fastening the glass bells and lemon on to the tips of its branches. She stood it in the sitting-room window, with the curtains pulled back, when it was ready, and could not resist lighting its tipsy green and white candles, just to see what it would look like.’

Seeing by Jose Saramago

So this isn’t one of my favourite authors but my husband loves him and I felt rather uneducated about books when he started talking about him, he’s won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He doesn’t really go in for much punctuation and his stories are rather strange. Seeing is about an election where the majority of the votes have been left blank and what this implies for the officials, government and people. Saramago is a great writer and a good gift for someone who likes to read something a little different.

Miss Pettgrew Lives for the day by Winifred Watson

I’ve been wanting to write about Persephone Books for a while and Christmas felt the ideal time to do so. They are an independent publishers, each book is grey with a wonderful end piece from the era of the novel. They are mainly books that have become out of print, written by female author tending to be domestic novels but that would swipe many away often they are gently hard hitting. Miss Pettigrew Lives for the day is one of their most famous and tells the most gorgeous fairy tale, there is a film of it but it has a subtle, yet important change in it that just isn’t right, in my eyes. It’s now my go to book when I need to be cheered up. The other reason for mentioning Persephone in this post is because on Sunday ITV showed Lady which is an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s (The Secret Garden) The Making of a Marchioness, another classic Persephone book.

Rachel x

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