Book Review: A book lover’s Christmas

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

What would the Christmas of the Belgian detective with a sweet tooth, Hercule Poirot, the imaginary creation of novelist Agatha Christie, look like? Solving crime, getting to the bottom of a murder mystery. Shares Professor Dr Michelle Philip of Mumbai’s Wilson College, “I like detective fiction. For me it’s standard reading for Christmas time.

In an Agatha Christie book, its repetitive narrative structure and standard features are exciting. The back story has ended when the book begins. You know what’s going to happen, that Poirot will solve the crime and find out who the culprit is.

There is intrigue, interrogation and motive and these are Christie’s books’ stock features. It’s far-fetched but you know Poirot will find out who committed the murder. I like the metaphor of good being rewarded in the end.”

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Philip also commends O. Henry’s short story, The Gift of the Magi because as she says it’s a story that is an “everyday story symbolising the act of giving.”

Philip speaks about the spirit of sacrifice and how the writing evoked the imagery of a couple truly in love, just starting their life together and how each took steps unknowingly, proving their love for each other was above all else.

The story is a story that takes off from the Magi who visited baby Jesus and carried him gifts. The gifts included gold, frankincense and myrrh. Legend has it that the gifts were symbolic, to recognise and rejoice a king born. Philip says the story by O.

Henry, has been interpreted as being reminiscent of the three magi who came to Jesus bearing gifts. In the story a husband sells his prized pocket watch to give his wife a pair of ‘tortoise-shell combs’, for her hair, known for its beauty, while the wife sells her hair to gift her husband a chain for his gold pocket watch.

“It’s the season of giving one another. O. Henry as the author is known for surprise endings in his works. Sometimes the end is exactly the opposite of what one expects. It’s a story of human values. When you have all the money, one can gift anything one wants. But this story is special because of how they choose to gift each other when they have nothing,” says Philip.

The Oxen by Thomas Hardy

One of Thomas Hardy’s most cherished poems, it comes recommended by Dr Anna Kurian of the University of Hyderabad (available online). Says Kurian, “Often seen as a children's poem it evokes both nostalgia and hope, first by giving us a scene set in childhood and then by showing that to be a memory, but one which still offers hope.

Christmas brings back memories of past holidays and also the hope of returning to happier times. For me The Oxen captures all the bittersweet nostalgia, happiness and hope of Christmas.”

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Proposed by Dr Kurian, this is a novel, “with two family Christmases which shows how Christmas can be celebrated even in the midst of utter want, with minimal resources, and is more to do with the love among family members than about wealth and expensive gifts. And it does it without being preachy or boring.”

Christmas Spirit

– A poem by Paul Moosberg

Romita Wadhwani, Professor of English at Jai Hind College, Mumbai, suggests to us Moosberg’s Christmas Spirit. This verse, the poem’s last verse sums up the spirit of the festival for us. (Available online)

“Christmas, Christmas, you can fill me

Up with Christmas cheer

Christmas, Christmas, you fulfill my

Spirit every year”

Wadhwani wants readers to celebrate this poem because as she says, “I do believe love is the emotion that drives us. I am talking about unconditional love. Just like you whip up a dish, if you whip up love in the correct proportions, it can be infectious and the Christmas spirit can make you feel good.

It can make others exuberant and happy too. Instead of asking Santa for gifts, the protagonist asks him for the Christmas spirit. If you have that, you are imbued with an inexplicable ecstasy that makes you whole and complete.”

Wadhwani wants readers to remember love as she analyses the Moosberg poem where he asks to be given the Christmas spirit as a gift, and nothing too regular.