I find it interesting that Christmas has the most “holiday specials” on television than all other events, however, I can only think of a couple Christmas books that are centered on Christmas. I imagine this would have more to do with the publishing industry versus the production industry. It would be tough to get a book published on the holiday, and then the sell time would be shortened as well. Not many want to read about Christmas in the middle of July. But there are a few Christmas stories…mostly plays…but they are the “classics.”
So I thought I’d take a moment to highlight one of my favorite Christmas stories from the more modern era. I read this one in middle school when I was really into Mary Higgins Clark. The title is All Through the Night. Clark somehow captures the Christmas spirit in a mystery/suspense novel. I think the reason for that is because the mystery revolves around reuniting an abandoned child with her mother…and the mother is not some druggie who didn’t want her. Clark combines the power of family with the spirit of Christmas, which is pretty interesting. The second thing that gives me “warm” Christmas feelings while reading are the festive scenes that surround the story. It opens with one of the main characters trying to learn to play “All Through the Night” on the piano, the child is involved in a Christmas pageant, and the ending scene that takes place at Carnegie Hall.
I think writers can learn a lot from Christmas stories. Think of any movie or TV presentation. If it’s not a satire in which Santa is filthy with a sailor’s mouth, then there are two common aspects. One: the setting has to be related to Christmas. There can’t just be twinkling lights in the background. There has to be Christmas music. It would be good if there were a pageant or concert. Festivities need to be in the air in order for it to capture the magic of Christmas. The second thing they all have in common is that most are character pieces. Even in Clark’s novel, what drives the story is not necessarily reuniting mother and child (the symbolism even there is Christmas themed). It is the characters that drive the story. We care for them. We want to see the reunion because we sympathize.
Christmas stories highlight the power a story can possess when character and setting align. This shouldn’t be a story where Christmas decorations can be exchanged for Halloween. The setting has to be a part of the story. And I have to care about the characters. I don’t care about a woman who abandons her child…unless she had a very compelling reason. Then I do care and I want them reunited. Sure, there are different “writerly” aspects to a story, but when an author really links the setting and characters with the plot…that’s when magic happens.
Do you have a favorite Christmas novel?