A Christmas Memory – Truman Capote (Penguin Classics 2020)

With the reign of my current Book Of The Year “Swan Song” by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott coming to an end I have made good my promise to myself to explore further the writings of her central character, Truman Capote.  Penguin Classics have put out for this festive season a collection of six of his short stories around the theme of Christmas.

I read an early review edition which was without any introduction which I would have really appreciated to put these tales in context.  I’m not sure whether this would be put right in the published version but it seems the stories span from 1945 when Capote was a callow youth of 21 to a tale which is copyrighted 1982 so may not have seen the light until a couple of years before his death, but I guess was probably written much earlier.

Capote writes with a sense of nostalgia which is so appropriate for the festive period and I could see some of these stories ending up in my “read yearly” list.  I don’t know enough about him to know how autobiographical they are (again an introduction would have helped).  The first three feature the narrator’s relationship with an elderly yet almost child-like female cousin, Miss Sook, who the young protagonist adores.  “A Christmas Memory” is a wistful tale of seasonal preparations and their relationship is explored further in “A Thanksgiving Visitor” (okay, not quite Xmas) where her role as care-giver and educator is enhanced.  The young boy spends Christmas with an absent father in “One Christmas.” The least successful story “Master Misery” dates from 1949 and is a more brittle New York tale with a female main character which deals in the importance of dreams and will no doubt have some bearing on his later (1958) novel which confirmed his literary superstar status. “Breakfast At Tiffanys”.

My favourite story is also not especially Christmassy, “Children On Their Birthdays” shows strong characterisation and his plot of a new young female arrival in town is highly involving.  It is also characterisation which is the strong point of “Jug Of Silver” but it is not as fully realised as its predecessor in the book. 

This has really whetted my appetite for more Capote.  I like his style.  He handles the short story format well and I’m even beginning to feel a little more joyous towards the coming festival after reading it.

A Christmas memory was published by Penguin Classics on 5th November 2020. Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the review copy.

Newbooks 90 – Available now

I’m pleased to say that this has been the busiest month ever on reviewsrevues.com with lots of new visitors and followers from all over the world.  A considerable number have been attracted by my review of the ITV series “The Level“, which in under three weeks has become by far my most read review of all time and many have, happily, stayed around and looked at other things whilst they are on the site.

So, with new people around I thought I’d take the opportunity to mention newbooks magazine and the associated nudge website, both of which I am involved with.  I am the lead contributor for literary fiction in the magazine and the community voice for the Bookhugger section of the website.  The magazine is published four times a year and the latest edition has just arrived.

img060

The featured author in the black and white photo on the cover is Jodi Picoult and there is an interview with her inside on the publication of her latest book “Small Great Things.”  There is also an exclusive from me, an interview with Jess Kidd whose “Himself” I enjoyed and reviewed recently.  There’s also a piece on “Black Narcissus” which compares the book to the film, which you also would not have read anywhere else before.  If you are looking for book ideas for Christmas, Jade (Book Geek) Paul (Book Life) and myself (Book Hugger) are ready to help.  To meet press deadlines I was researching books for Xmas whilst the sun was blazing down (remember that day?) so I have been anticipating the publication of the books I selected as good present choices for some time.  If anyone wants to get hold for me any of the books I’ve highlighted for Xmas they would be most welcome!!

Also it was good to see contributions from a couple of other wordpress bloggers, both of whom I have been following for some time.  Bookish Beck has highlighted, as I also have, a Christmas book by Jeanette Winterson, which may very well become a seasonal perennial. There is also an interview with Simon Savidge of Savidgereads who has been blogging for a number of years and who is always worth a visit.

If I haven’t tempted you enough there is also the opportunity to get hold of four free recommended reads by just paying the postage.  There is the aforementioned “Himself”, together with “The Return Of Norah Wells” by Virginia McGregor, “Dragon Games” by Jan-Philipp Sendker and “The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper” by Phaedra Patrick.  There are articles on all of those books.  With Man Booker Prize announcement imminent there are a collection of my reviews from the short/long lists (“His Bloody Project” for the prize please).

If you haven’t checked out newbooks for a while.  This is a magazine that is getting better and better.  This edition and back issues can be purchased by visiting the shop on the Nudge website either as a single copy or more sensibly by taking out a subscription.  Happy reading!