Highlights in the Charts: Christmas Gifting Edition
How to be More Paddington: Book of Kindness
We are constantly informed by society as to who and what we should be, but if we are to listen to anyone, we may as well follow the words and wisdom of one of the nation’s favourite bears. This beautiful hardback is perfect for a close friend or family member who is in need for a little light-hearted fun. Universal in its appeal, whilst also feeling like a thoughtful gift, it would be a delight for any recipient to open on Christmas day. With Paddington’s always charming and matter-of-fact tone, some of his best aphorisms have been repurposed and delivered on to the page, to bring the joy of How to be More Paddington.
Divided into chapters that range from “Being Friendly” to “Being Positive”, some of Paddington’s most notable quotes adorn the pages: from snippets of conversations with Aunt Lucy, to what it truly means to be a bear. Peggy Fortnum’s wonderful hand drawn images are a particular highlight, whether that is the delicate use of watercolour or the classic monochrome strokes. Although it may be the kind of book you may flip through from time to time, it does not lessen its worth as a delightful addition to any booklover’s bookshelf.
“The Betrayals is in part a book about the joy we find in our playmates, in moments of shared humour or creativity, in seeing and being seen.” - Bridget Collins
Bridget Collins is fast becoming one of my favourite authors of all time. Her first adult book, The Binding, was a bewitching display of Collins’ talent which was always going to be hard to follow. The Betrayals matches the beauty of its predecessor completely. Both wholly singular stories, Collins is a master of writing fiction that is both unsettling and captivating.
The Betrayals is an all-encompassing story about how politics, love and art come together. The story is told from three perspectives: Léo Martin, an exiled politician, Claire Dryden, the first female Magister Ludi of Montverre Academy, and the Rat, a girl transformed by time. Unwittingly, the three are all connected not only by their pasts but by the grand jeu, a beguiling artform that combines performance, literature, maths, music and divinity. Fraught with tension, Montverre Academy is under pressure from the changing political landscape, threatening to crack under the weight of its own history. Léo, Claire and the Rat navigate these murky waters and their own uncontrollable emotions, developing a tone of melancholy. Yet, at its heart, this is a story of hope.
Collins is a master craftswoman, capturing the intimate in dizzyingly brilliant worldbuilding that defies genre. The hardback is like a piece of art itself, the perfect gift for anyone searching for enchanting fiction this Christmas.
Hercule Poirot's Christmas Agatha Christie
Despite being published in 1938, Agatha Christie’s masterful Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is just as vigorously enthusiastic and engaging when read in 2020. HarperCollins’ stunning and striking cover will undoubtedly appeal to hardcore Christie fans and new readers alike.
In Christie’s venerated Christmas novel, the holidays are anything but merry when a family reunion is spoiled by a violent murder. Simeon Lee, a rich, difficult old man, as typical of many of Christie’s murder victims, has invited his children home for the holidays. Instead of hoping for a reconciliation before he passes on, Lee plays wicked tricks on the people who hope to inherit his fortune. His game, of course, backfires, leaving the police with a house full of suspects and a locked room mystery on their hands.
The characters are a mix of good and ghastly, and red herrings abound as Poirot painstakingly picks apart the suspects' half-truths and lies. Hercule Poirot is perhaps more subdued in this festive tale, but his character still delights. It is especially worth revisiting this classic character now, as 2021 will see the release of Kenneth Branagh’s Death of the Nile.
Despite the festive backdrop, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is no less an example of Christie’s skill, charm and wit, and the perfect Christmas read:
"There is something here - some violence..." He stopped a minute, then went on: "Yes that is it - violence… And blood - an insistence on blood… There is - how shall I put it? - There is too much blood.”