01 January 2014

Chills, Charm, and Creeps

An Oxford Book of Christmas Stories, edited by Dennis Pepper
Well, I wanted a different book of Christmas stories, and this one certainly qualifies! No Scrooge, no Taylor Caldwell, no Norman Vincent Peale, no Pearl Buck.

Ostensibly this is a children's book, but these days, with the stories' vocabulary, I would say older children, and mind that they are not for a child who is used to cloying Christmas stories with sweet, happy endings. This volume contains, among others, some very traditional British ghost and thriller stories ("A Lot of Mince-pies" is especially creepy), stories about children with unhappy lives (Frank O'Connor's "Christmas Morning" and "Get Lost," about a rejected child in the hospital top this list), and even fairy tales about killer snowmen. But there are tender or memorable moments: a flooded-out Australian family's unique holiday, Laurie Lee talks about carol singing as a youth, a story of a stillborn child and a mysterious stranger, memories of a refugee camp after the Second World War, the nativity story as recollected by Mary. Shirley Jackson provides a bitter twist as always, and there's even a humorous tale about a remarkable boyfriend. For a touch of the familiar, there's Mr. Pickwick sliding on the ice.

I really, really enjoyed the twists in some of these stories, even though I'm also a Chicken Soup for the Soul kinda gal. There must be some tart to balance the sweet and this offbeat book certainly provides a generous amount. Highly recommended!

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