An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe
|An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: A curve-ball from Nina Stibbe after two novels, this selection of themed memoirs, admissions and comic writings is much better than the typical seasonal cash-in.
|Date: November 2017
|External links: Author's website
Christmas – the time of traditional trauma. You only have to think about the turkey for that – once upon a time it was leaving it sat on the downstairs loo to defrost overnight, and if that failed the hair-dryer shoved inside it treatment was your next best bet. Nowadays it's all having to make sure it's suitably free-range and organic – but not too organic that you can go and visit it, and get too friendly with it to want to eat it. Christmas, though, is of course also a time of great boons. It's cash in hand for a lot of plump people who can hire red suits and beards, it was always a godsend for postmen with all the thank-you letters to aunties you saw twice a decade that your parents made you write out in long-hand as a child, and as for the makers of Meltis Newberry Fruits – well, did they even try and sell them any other time of the year?
This book is like that – easy, charming reminiscences and quips about Christmastime, although of course with more of the ease, charm and quippingness than I could hope to provide. It's a selection of essays, themed around the returning siblings with their subtle pre-Xmas wish to be given a better choice of going back home each and every year, or the pain in choosing suitable music for seasonal parties – and of course the worry of not getting the food right for all-comers without going spare yourself. Peppered in between, like old farthings in the pudding, are four stories – and as is usual with Ms Stibbe they have more of the whiff of autobiography about them, at least at first. Certainly it's not the only time she's made a young female character cause a scene in Leicester's recently-departed department store, Fenwick's – methinks there's a confession in there somewhere.
We close with an A-Z of Christmassy elements, and a brief description of their pros and cons – WRAPPING. Make an effort… get the shop to do it, if possible, or RE-GIFTING. One of the most exciting aspects of Christmas (risky but rewarding). It's all very warm and cosy, but the laughs are solid, whether you recognise the Leicestershire references or not, and whether you too are in a situation like Nina – large family of adult siblings who could host, but won't. The book is on the slight side, it has to be said, and that partly comes from at least some of it being published as essays and samplers of her work before now. But whatever the derivation, and whatever the lack of credit for prior publication, the pieces are definitely part of the author's growing oeuvre and the subject in her hands bears such singular attention. I wouldn't see a problem in anyone gifting this book for Christmas – and oh look, here's the very author in these pages saying exactly the same thing. There's nice.
'Twas the Fight Before Christmas: A Parody by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees covers the same ground at times.
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You can read more book reviews or buy An Almost Perfect Christmas by Nina Stibbe at Amazon.com.
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