Winter: A Book for the Season by Felicity Trotman (editor)
|Winter: A Book for the Season by Felicity Trotman (editor)|
|Reviewer: Rebecca Foster|
|Summary: A wintry anthology packed with literary extracts, nature and travel pieces, and poems. Some of the pieces are overlong, and the small type is hard to read. This is one to keep on the coffee table and dip into rather than read straight through.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: November 2016|
|Publisher: Amberley Publishing|
This seasonal anthology contains a nice mixture of poetry, nature and travel pieces, and excerpts from longer works of fiction. Felicity Trotman, a freelance editor and member of the English Civil War Society, has arranged the material into three sections: 'The Old Year', 'Christmas, Sacred and Secular', and 'The New Year'. This creates an appropriate sense of chronological progression, and also serves to make Christmas the heart of the book. Black-and-white illustrations – maps, photographs and engravings – are interspersed throughout, and each author gets a short paragraph of biography and background.
'The Old Year' was the highlight of the anthology for me. Some favourite pieces were W.H. Hudson on the town birds of Bath in the late nineteenth century, Mark Twain on his determination to keep wearing his trademark white through the winter, a Hans Christian Andersen dialogue between a snowman who longs to be by the stove and the yard-dog that warns him away, and Richard Jeffries on those who go out to work on a winter morning. There is a wonderful excerpt from Henry David Thoreau's Walden about pond ice. I also particularly enjoyed the O. Henry story 'The Cop and the Anthem', in which a drifter tries his best to get arrested – prison offers the most comfortable winter quarters around – but, ironically, is only arrested when he goes into a church to contemplate turning his life around.
But it was the poetry I enjoyed the most. Trotman includes a wide range of celebrated poets, from William Shakespeare and John Keats to John Clare and William Wordsworth. I particularly liked a more recent contribution from Carolyn King, 'First Snow', in which a cat imagines that a giant wallpaper stripper has produced the flakes.
The Christmas section includes excerpts from The Pickwick Papers and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and some illuminating information about the Puritans vs. the Royalists, including Josiah King's mocking pamphlet of 1658, featuring the Trial of Father Christmas. I also appreciated a Sherlock Holmes story featuring a Christmas goose, and the famous New York Sun editorial 'Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa.'
All told, though, there are too many seventeenth-century and older pieces with archaic spellings, and a number of the history and travel extracts, in particular, feel overlong – especially the nearly 40 pages in total from Ernest Shackleton's South. Especially given the thin pages and small type, this represents a tediously large chunk of the book.
I couldn't help but compare this to another winter anthology I read recently (produced by the Wildlife Trusts and edited by Melissa Harrison). That book is devoted to seasonal encounters with Britain's wildlife, and the only real overlap with this volume was Gilbert White's nature observations. Crucially, though, no piece was longer than six pages, and most were only two or three. The shorter pieces increase the variety of an anthology and mean the book lends itself better to being picked up and read a few stories at a time.
This is one to keep on the coffee table each winter and dip into over the course of several years rather than read straight through.
Further reading suggestion: Two seasonal anthologies we can recommend are I'll Be Home For Christmas by Benjamin Zephaniah and Others and The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries by Otto Penzler (editor).
You can read more book reviews or buy Winter: A Book for the Season by Felicity Trotman (editor) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Winter: A Book for the Season by Felicity Trotman (editor) at Amazon.com.
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