Merry Christmas! Here’s the third instalment in our Christmassy book Q&A in which Anna talks Wind in the Willows, poetry and pulling a cracker with Professor McGonagall.
What is your favourite Christmas scene in a book?
I do really like Chapter 5 of Wind in the Willows which is about many things, but includes an impromptu party thrown for carol-singing field-mice by Ratty and Mole. The chapter ends with Mole drifting off to sleep, thinking about the importance of having a community and a place to call home, which seems especially apt at this time of year and in 2018:
He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.
Do you have any Christmas book traditions?
We have a book with a short poem or extract from a book for every day of Advent, and I try and buy a new Christmas book for the girls each year (this year is Grandpa Christmas by Michael Morpurgo). I also try and find time on Christmas Eve to read A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas aloud to Alys and Elin…
All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.
What book would you like to receive on Christmas day?
I’d be happy with just about any book to be honest, but I would really love ‘Honey and Co. at Home’ or ‘The Phantom Atlas’, which is about mistakes on maps.
Which book characters would you like to have Christmas dinner with?
Mrs Cratchit, Professor McGonagall and Becky Sharp.
Which book would you give as a Christmas present?
Jeanette Winterson’s ’Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days’
Favourite/least favourite book you read in 2018?
I hate giving up books, but I did abandon ‘Judas’ by Amos Oz this year. I felt like I had already read enough books about middle-aged men and their obsessions with beautiful and unobtainable women.
Some of my favourite authors have published new books this year, so it’s been a good year for favourite books, but I’d probably pick ‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead. It’s a brutal read, but utterly engrossing and the central character Cora is a force of nature.