Amidst the mad gaiety of the season, we offer refuge within the pages of books that will tug at heart strings and put a quiet smile on your face. Or maybe even draw a tear or two....
HOW The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss: A seasonal classic – and not just for the kids it was written for! For those who have somehow missed this heartwarming tale, it tells of the bitter and grumpy recluse Grinch, who lives only with his dog in a cave up in the mountains. He detests and despises the merriment of the community of Whos that lives at the foot of the mountain, and comes up with a plan to steal all their presents and food.
But instead of taking revenge or sitting and crying, the Whos continue the season’s celebrations with joyful singing, teaching the Grinch that Christmas isn’t just about toys and turkeys, that’s it’s about kith and kin and friendship and thankfulness. First published in 1957, the story has been adapted for stage and screen many times with the latest being a 2000 film starring Jim Carrey.
An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor: Here’s another oldie but goodie, a title from the Irish Country series that began publication in 2000; the Christmas title is No.3 in the series and is from 2008 – the warmth of the story, though, is still new and fresh. By this third book, young English doctor Barry Laverty is settling into the quirky Irish village of Ballybucklebo in the back of beyond and is looking forward to spending his first Christmas in it – especially as his sweetheart is coming to visit.
But then it turns out Patricia might not make it, and his is inundated by the season’s coughs and colds. In between attending to the patients, though, Dr Laverty and his senior partner, the irascible Dr Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, manage to have some fun and even make miracle happen. What tugs at the heart strings is the story’s charming little setting, quirky but lovable characters and the way these dedicated doctors do what they can for the villagers.
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham: Since their daughter is off in another country, couple Luther and Nora Krank decides to do away with all the celebratory activities that have come to define Christmas, just this once. They won’t be throwing feasts nor decorating their home with a tree. On the very day of Christmas, they will embark on a Carribbean cruise filled with fun, food and relaxation.
But their seafaring adventure soon turns into a frenzied one and isn’t quite as they had envisioned it to be.... This is a hilarious novel that amuses and is a huge departure from Grisham’s other more serious works.
Christmas Memory by Truman Capote: This short story by Truman Capote is supposed to be mostly autobiographical and is about the lives of seven-yearold Buddy and his best friend, an elderly female cousin. Set in 1930, the evocative tale describes country life, the joy of giving, and of friendship.
Of course, this being the painfully gritty Capote, there is lots of sadness, even bitterness, as he descibes a lonely Buddy who is
somewhat of an outcast and how the boy is separated from his beloved cousin when he’s sent to military school and she slips into old age and dementia. But balancing the sadness is the description of the Christmas that the two share, when they gift each other with kites and spend one perfect day flying them.
The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern: Everyone who watches English-language movies probably knows about the classic Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. But few know that the heart-warming, life-affirming movie that invariably brings a tear to the eye was based on The Greatest Gift, a short story written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1943. The American author and editor printed the tale privately as a Christmas card for his friends. Since the mega success of the 1946 movie, the story has been re-issued as a book many times in different editions.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of watching the movie, the story – in both the movie and the short story – is about George Bailey, a good but troubled man who contemplates suicide on a snowy night because he feels he has failed his wife and children. But an angel steps in and shows him that life is a gift and every person is special. – Compiled by Malini Dias and Lim Chia Ying