A Couple of Christmas Reviews

christmasmmemI love reading Christmas books during this time of the year. It’s one of my favorite things about December. And I’ve continued that tradition this year with two wonderful books so far. The first is Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. I knew that this was one of Nymeth’s favorite short stories, but it still surpassed my expectations. What a gorgeous piece of work this is. What made me actually pick this one up was a trip to Barnes and Noble. I found a Modern Library edition of this one that’s absolutely beautiful! It has antiqued cream colored pages and includes not only A Christmas Memory, but also two other stories: “One Christmas” and “The Thanksgiving Visitor”.

This is the first thing I’ve read by Capote and for some reason, I was never that interested in reading anything by him. Now I want to read everything he wrote. If everything else he wrote is half as good as this, I’ll love it all. His writing is exquisite, is conversational, but has this almost poetic feel to it at the same time while being simplistic. But it’s not simplistic at all. I know I’m making no sense, but it’s just classic. While reading these stories, I felt like I was in his childhood home in Alabama baking fruitcakes with him and his elderly friend. I could smell the smells, feel the wood surrounding me, hear the surroundings, embrace the essence of his childhood.

The stories themselves are really his memoirs of his childhood. “A Christmas Memory” tells the story of one Christmas that he recalls when he was seven years old. Truman Capote lived in a home with his uncle and cousins in Alabama as a child and his best friend was an elderly woman whom he called Ms. Sook. She called him Buddy. In a Christmas story, he shares the memory of the joy he shares in the simplicity of his life when he had little money, but found happiness with his elderly aunt in baking fruitcakes and gathering the ingredients and making homemade gifts for each other and their family. The story is essentially about the bond between the two and ultimately how it lasts throughout the roughest of times and it’s quite beautiful.

The other stories in the collection also focus on Ms. Sook and his relationship, though they center around other events. “One Christmas” tells the story of when he is forced to visit his father in New Orleans for the first time. His father is a man that he essentially did not know, a man that destroyed his belief in Santa Claus, took advantage of elderly women for their money and drank himself into a stupor to the point of frightening young Truman.

The final story, “The Thanksgiving Visitor” is the story of a young boy named Odd who constantly picked on Truman to the point of abuse in elementary school, but was worse off than anyone else when it came to his home life. Ms. Sook convinces Truman to invite Odd to Thanksgiving dinner one year against Truman’s wishes and Truman learns an important lesson from the events that unfold.

All of these are truly beautiful, yet heartbreaking stories that are told in a heartwarming way. I thought that this was just the perfect Christmas read, especially “A Christmas Memory” and it’s a book that I’ll proudly be adding to my collection.

firtreeThe second book that I read is a graphic novel adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Fir Tree done by Lilli Carre. I don’t know if this is a graphic novel per se or a story with pictures…it’s sort of a mix, but it was shelved in the graphic novel section, so we’ll call it that. Whatever it is, we’ll call it very well done! I’m so glad that I found this one! I’ll give you a fair warning, this is not a happy story. It’s quite sad. It starts off sad, and only gets sadder.

It’s the tale of a fir tree who is not happy with it’s life in the forest. It finds itself to be too small. No birds want to nest in it. Hares jump over it, it’s so small. As it begins to grow, it’s still not happy with it’s life. Other trees are getting cut down and it talks to the birds to find out where they’re being taken and it learns that they are being made into ships. It thinks it would like to be made into a ship. Other trees are cut down the next year that are smaller than itself and it asks the birds where they are being taken and it learns that they are being made into Christmas trees and it thinks that it would like to be a Christmas tree. But it is not. The tree is never happy.

Finally, the next year, the tree is chopped down and is in pain and wishes it was not taken from the forest when it finally gets it’s wish. It’s adorned with gorgeous toys and dolls and tapers and a gold star and children gather around it and the tree finally has a moment of happiness. But this moment is to be it’s last. For it’s abandoned after that and we know what is to come of Christmas trees after Christmas.

OMG, this story made me never want to get a real tree again!!!! Hans Christian Andersen what have you done to me?? In all seriousness, I really did like this story, and it did have a wonderful message, albeit a depressing way of getting that message across. It’s often hard for us to appreciate where we are in life and what we have and we often wish for something else. But often that something else is no better for us than where we are now. I think Christmas for me is always a time to evaluate where I am and look at it and really appreciate it, and this story gets that message across.

I loved Lilly Carre’s illustrations! They’re playful and colorful and contrast nicely with the story that Andersen tells here. I think my only problem with this was that the story was obviously abridged. I could be totally wrong there as it doesn’t say “abridged” anywhere on the book, but it seems like it was as I was often rubbing the pages thinking that I had to have missed a page somewhere. Well not often, but once or twice. Still, it wasn’t a big deal and I think it’s something that any fan of Anderson, fairy tales, or Christmas in general would enjoy 😉

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9 Responses

  1. I knee you’d love the Capote stories. Now you must read The Grass Harp. I promise you’ll love it too! It’s my favourite book of his and it’s just gorgeous.

    That illustrated version of the Fir-Tree sounds amazing! Andersen was definitely a bit of a sadist 😛

    (Attempt #2…I think my first comment went to spam 😦 )

  2. I’m a bit scared to read Capote. Not sure why. He intimidates me.

  3. My only encounter with Truman Capote was Breakfast At Tifanny’s so I guess I do need to find more of his works.Adding it to my list right now..

  4. I was surprised to see Andersen’s The Fir Tree mentioned here. I have read it a few times as a child (but in the meantime I have forgotten that the author was Andersen, I thought it was a more obscure one hence my being surprised at finding it here). That story has touched me so deeply that ever since I am a grown up (with my own home and getting to decide) I have only had plastic fir trees, simply because I cannot bear to think of the fir tree’s sadness when the holidays ended. I do know I am anthropomorphizing the poor thing and I shouldn’t, but I can’t help thinking of that part of the story each and every time I see a Christmas tree.

  5. My spouse calls them “enhanced trees.” We’ve had one for many years now. I can second the recommendation for A Christas Memory. There’s actually a pretty good movie version of it, too. Made for television back in the 1970’s I think but it’s available on DVD. It sticks very very close to the story.

  6. I read A Christmas Memory a couple of months ago and had probably the same reaction as you. It was so soooo good.

  7. I’ve not heard of either of these books so I will be hunting them down for sure. I’m prepared for the brutal fir tree story…probably make me sad about our live tree won’t it???

  8. I read this a few years ago and loved it. It is definitely depressing though. You should definitely read more Capote. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is good, but he has a lot of stories that are better.

  9. If yuo want to give Capote another whirl I would try In Cold Blood (though maybe not over the christmas period) its non fiction but reads like a piece of the highest quality fiction, utterly amazing! I now want to get my hands on this Christmas tale he has done!

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