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Author Patricia Nicol reveals the best books on: Christmas with a difference

Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Christmas with a difference

  • Patricia Nichol fears many of us get suckered into creating a ‘perfect Christmas’
  • In a Maigret Christmas, a Parisian detective ends up working through the holiday
  • In The Weekend, three friends clear out their late friend Sylvie’s beach house

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like S***mas,’ I found myself trilling last week. This was before the new Tier 4 ruling really scuppered things. Truly, these are times to burst even an optimist’s bubble.

On the subject of bubbles, how many will be having their usual Christmas, or even the one hoped for a week ago? Mine will be spent at home, with just my immediate family. Although sad to not be seeing my parents — home alone in Scotland — I still look forward to a celebratory day of feasting and giving.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood (pictured)

Patricia Nichol reveals the best books about unconventional Christmas celebrations, including Georges Simenon’s Maigret Christmas (pictured left) and The Weekend by Charlotte Wood (pictured right)

Too many of us, I fear, get suckered into trying to create some ‘perfect Christmas’. A comforting lesson from fiction is that the simpler our yuletide ambitions, the less likely they are to blow up in our faces. In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Agatha Christie’s Belgian sleuth is called in to investigate the gruesome murder of mean-spirited millionaire Simeon Lee. Lee has gathered his family for a Christmas house party more in the spirit of manipulative puppet-master than jolly paterfamilias. He doesn’t even make it past Christmas Eve.

In a Maigret Christmas, Georges Simenon’s Parisian detective also ends up working through the holiday. On Christmas morning, he is visited by two female neighbours asking him to investigate a little girl’s claim of being visited in the night by Father Christmas. The presumed intruder did leave her an expensive doll. Maigret is intrigued.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood depicts a searing-hot Australian summer Christmas, again a working holiday. Three friends in their 70s — former restaurateur Jude, academic Wendy and actress Adele — gather to spend the holiday weekend clearing out their late friend Sylvie’s beach house. Tensions arise.

This year everyone’s got permission to slack off. Whether alone, at work or with a crowd, have yourself a merry little Christmas. Next year, hopefully, these troubles will be out of sight.

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