#5. The Virago Book of Christmas

“Around the hotel pool Christmas trees

and flame hibiscus glow with fairy lights.”

The Virago Book of Chrismas, edited by Michelle Lovric is an anthology of letters, excerpts from novels, poems and short stories about Christmas by women writers across the globe. The book which is divided into four sections – The Nativity: Mary’s Christmas, Childhood Christmases, Christmas at our place, Christmas Abroad, The Ral Gifts: Christmas Transformations, Christmas Foods, Mischielf and Malfeasance at Christmas, Christmas at War and Christmas Romance – has works from a range of authors including Virginia Woolf, Christina Rossetti, Agathe Christie and Ntozake Shange.

Some of the works in the anthology were rather dull – for example, I fell asleep twice through the excerpt from Colette’s De ma Fenetre and Christmas poetry, I discovered, can be pretty drab. But other pieces made up for that. Some of the works were intriguing because of their historicity – for example a Christmas letter from Jane Carlyle describes a Christmas party which had Thackeray, Dickens and Forster among its guests.

The funny ones were the best though – including a surprisingly hilarious account of Christmas dinner at Lady Mary Anne Barker’s Jamaican home. The funniest of the funny ones, though, was also my most favourite work in the anthology – a brilliant essay on how to make the worst of Christmas by the inimitable Jenny Eclair.

Also, a piece that pleasantly surprised me was Valerie Joseph’s poem Christmas in Cochin which was filed under Christmas Abroad. (from which the quote at the beginning of this post is taken)

All in all, it was an okayish book – not all the writing in it was exceptional but the pieces that were and the interesting mini-bios about the authors at the start of each piece made the book a good read – especially in this time of the year when everything’s so Christmassy. 🙂