Two Titles for Christmas Reading

It’s the time of year when Christmas themed books are hitting the shelves in bookstores as well as libraries, for gift giving or personal reading.  Here are two titles that I recommend for reading as you settle down for your winter’s nap:

I learned of the novel Mr. Ives Christmas about two years ago when correspondent Ray Suarez named it as his favorite book to read at Christmastime (read the story here).  Mr. Ives follows the life of an advertising artist from his childhood in an adoptive family to his own wife and two children.  When his teen-aged son is murdered just days before Christmas, Ives, a gentle and deeply spiritual man, questions his faith in God and the meaning of his own life, beginning a struggle for inner peace that lasts for many years.

What Suarez liked about Mr. Ives was how author Oscar Hijuelos evoked visual and sensory images of New York City’s people and places of eras long past.  While I can’t appreciate those images as deeply as Suarez, I was nonetheless drawn into that world, easily seeing it in my mind’s eye thanks to Hijuelos’ economic yet vivid description.  In this world, Hijuelos builds a character in Ives who is patient, sensitive, loving life, learning and humanity, and deeply spiritual.  Ives is a man to whom the reader can become emotionally attached, feeling his spiritual elation in his ruminations of God and his crushing pain as he grapples with tragedy.  Like Ives’ family and friends, we wonder why a good man must suffer such great loss, and hope with them that he can overcome and find peace in his golden years.

A Christmas Belle is another sequel to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (see my blog from December 2008 about two other sequels).  It’s Christmas Day and Ebenezer Scrooge is making amends to all the folks whom he has wronged the day before.  The Ghost of Christmas Past appears and informs him of one last wrong from his past that he must right:  His former fiancée Belle, who broke their engagement years ago in the face of Scrooge’s growing avarice.  Scrooge refuses at first: After all, it was she who left him.  But make the trial he must, lest the lessons of the night before come to mean nothing.

I was especially interested in this “little tome” because it is written by screenwriting team Claudia Johnson and Matt Stevens, both former teachers of mine.  Johnson and Stevens pay loving homage to Dickens by building on characters and situations in Carol, and quoting his text and dialogue from Carol and other writings throughout.   I must confess that I wished for less Dickens and more of their own voice:  Both writers are very insightful, and Johnson especially has a very witty style.  Nonetheless, Belle is an interesting take on Scrooge’s relationship with Belle – who was a passing character in Carol – with some surprising turns.

*****

Mr. Ives’ Christmas is available through PINES.  Ask a librarian for assistance.

A Christmas Belle is not available through PINES currently, but can be purchased through stores and on-line vendors.

Ask a librarian about other Christmas books, both recent and older, available at CCLS.

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Published in: on December 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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