2

‘Fifty Words for Snow’ by Nancy Campbell ****

Nancy Campbell has been a writer on my radar for such a long time now, but I had yet to pick up one of her books – until, that is, a gorgeous hardback edition of her newest effort, Fifty Words for Snow, landed on my doorstep. It really appealed to the cold weather enthusiast in me, and it felt like a wonderful choice to incorporate into my autumnal reading, particularly as the days are getting steadily colder.

The idea for Fifty Words for Snow was born from Campbell’s research on ice. She was a Writer in Residence in Greenland during the winter of 2010, at the most northerly museum in the world, and her surroundings sparked this interest within her. Much of her work since – a decade spent on the ‘changing language and landscape of the Arctic’ – has revolved around cold weather, and what it means to us.

At this point in her life, Campbell tells us in her introduction, ‘… I was seeking to escape the distractions of a capital city. I needed white noise… There is much poignant art and literature about polar purity and silence, but the longer I spent among the snow [in Greenland], the more I suspected such tropes are born of luxury and distance. It is a view that overwrites the peopled landscape, ignores the tracks of sleds and snowmobiles that cross it, the busy burrows and root systems beneath it. As time passed and I looked more closely, I realised snow does not always appear white. As I listened more carefully, I realised that snow was not silent.’

As its title indicates, Fifty Words for Snow gives fifty international words for snow, many of them denoting very specific kinds. Campbell ‘digs deep into the meanings and etymologies, the histories and the futures of fifty words for snow from across the world, using them as clues to the many ways in which we are all connected to one another and to our planet.’ She writes about the shifting landscapes, as snow patterns change across the world: ‘Just as the ecosystem is changing, so are the languages that describe it and the way they are understood.’ Of her project, and her sustained interest within it, Campbell explains: ‘The process of tracing a single theme across many languages new to me seemed a powerful way to overcome the borders that were going up around the world.’

In her introduction, Campbell notes that ‘every language and culture has its own word for the magical, mesmerising flakes that fall from the sky.’ The words which the author has drawn together here come from a wealth of different languages and cultures: they range from Latvian and Scots, to Thai and Kashmiri; from Maōri and Mongolian, to Newfoundland English and Faroese. Some of the languages which Campbell has chosen to use are endangered, sometimes used by just a single community.

Each word which Campbell writes about – all of them randomly rather than geographically ordered, which I found an interesting touch – forms a short yet precise chapter. Some of these chapters, indeed, are only a paragraph or two long; others are far more detailed. Each begins with the chosen word and the language which it comes from, and then gives its specific translation, some of which are wonderfully precise. The Icelandic hundslappadrífa, for instance, means ‘snowflakes big as a dog’s paw’. In Finnish, tykky means ‘thick snow and frost that accumulates on tree branches and other structures.’ The Japanese word yuki-onna denotes a snow-woman, whose ‘skin is cold; her hair is silver; she dresses in white.’

Around the world, snow ‘may be welcomed, feared, played with or prized.’ Campbell is constantly aware of the reliance which different cultures have upon the snow. The Sámi language, for instance, ‘reflects the herders’ intimate relationship with their environment. The rich terminology for snow and ice includes words to describe the way snow falls, where it lies, its depth, density and temperature.’

Throughout, Campbell touches upon so many subjects. She writes about shepherds in the Scottish Borders, Greenlandic microbreweries, snowboarding, environmentally friendly fake snow made specifically for use on film sets, polar exploration, the building of igloos, avalanche prevention, and even the inspiration of snowy climates on the flags of several countries.

Fifty Words for Snow is both thoughtful and thorough. Campbell’s prose is lyrical, and holds such beauty about it. This work of non-fiction is clearly a labour of love, and it is a perfect choice to dip in and out of or, indeed, to read all in one go. Campbell’s book is far-reaching; she has tapped into so many languages and cultures, and gives fascinating details throughout. It will certainly make a lovely gift for the festive season, and there is something wonderfully comforting about it, too.

1

‘Snow’ by Marcus Sedgwick ****

I found the lovely little hardback edition of Marcus Sedgwick’s Snow whilst browsing in the library, and added it to the already large pile weighing down my arms.  I have read a few of Sedgwick’s novels to date, but had never encountered his non-fiction work, and was suitably intrigued to start reading it as soon as I returned home.  It was the perfect addition to my seasonal reading pile, which I like to collate as soon as every season begins to shift into the next.

Sedgwick has always been fascinated by snow, and has travelled to many cold parts of the world in order to get closer to it.  After moving from Kent to a mountain chalet in France’s Haute-Savoie region, which borders Italy and Switzerland, ‘for the first time, he truly understood what it meant to live in a place where snowfall shaped the rhythms and boundaries of life.’

91vxoaic14lSnow is split into six sections, a number which has been selected to represent the six sides of a snowflake; a nice touch, I feel, and it is certainly an approach which works well.  In each of these chapters, Sedgwick explores ‘the art, literature and science of snow’, and places these alongside his own experiences.  Alongside this, he explores the wider implications of snowfall.  The blurb comments that Sedgwick also looks into ‘climate change for himself, asking if snow could become a thing of the past’ – rather a scary thought.

From the outset, Sedgwick’s descriptive writing really helps to set the scene.  He writes from his new home in France, commenting: ‘Looking down the valley now, between the humps of the nearby hills that lie like a line of vast migrating mammoths, the tip of the summit of Mont Blanc is making one of its rare appearances sans chapeau – without a hat – above the cloud that almost perpetually envelops the peak.  But yesterday the snow laid down its marker for the season, made its opening move, letting us know it’s on its way in earnest.  It is October 16.’

He opens with a fascinating section on the origins of different words for snow and their usage, before moving on to explore the scientific elements which will determine which kinds of snow will fall.  I admit that the science geek within me loved revisiting facts such as the following: ‘… the six-armed star shapes, known as dendrites, are not the only kind possible.  It’s also possible for snow to fall as needles, columns, hollow columns, six-sided prisms and plates.’  Sedgwick goes on to write: ‘Once snow lands, drifts, accumulates, thaws, refreezes, slides and so on, it develops even more intricacy, even greater wildness, but that’s another matter again.’

Sedgwick reminisces throughout the book about the winters of his childhood, and how they awakened his great love of snow; of ‘snowmen, snowball fights, icicles as dashers or as ice-dragon teeth, the snow seems to me now to have been a (literally) brilliant canvas for the imagination.’  His vision of the future is nowhere near as rosy as his reminiscences for years gone by, but his stark comments sadly feel realistic.  He comments: ‘At some point in our future then, there will be no more snow, no more ice…  Real snow – fresh, natural, ephemeral and almost supernatural – that will be gone.  Icicles like dragons’ teeth, lakes to skate on: these will be gone too.  The temperature of the world will have risen to the point where such things will live only in the memory of those old enough to remember, and then snow will take on itself an even deeper symbolism; it will become even more magical, mystical.  It will stand then for what we have lost.’

First published in 2016, and coming in at just over 100 pages, Snow would make a wonderful gift, or serve as a lovely choice for something a little different to read during the winter months.  It is a tome by a prolific but quite underrated author, and feels quite different from his other work which I have read to date.  One can see, however, in novels like My Swordhand is Swinging and Blood Red, Snow White, the influence of the winter.

Snow is absorbing, and the scope which Sedgwick has achieved within such a short book is admirable.  He continually notes how the weather is in the Haute-Savoie, and also beautifully captures how whole communities have come to live within, and rely upon, the snow.  He explores the myths and legends based around the snow – surprisingly few of them exist – and reinforces the power and reach of the snow as a weather phenomenon.  For a slim book, there is certainly a lot packed in, and much to consider.

0

‘No Way of Telling’ by Emma Smith ****

I had previously read, and very much enjoyed, Emma Smith’s The Far Cry, which was reprinted by Persephone in 2002.  I was keen to read more of Smith’s work, and ordered a gorgeous old paperback version of No Way of Telling, a novel which she wrote for children.  It stood out to me as a seasonal choice which I could read over the winter season.

6111016The protagonist of No Way of Telling is a young, and highly likeable, girl named Amy Bowen, who lives with her grandmother in rural Radnorshire in Wales, two miles away from the nearest village, and five from her school.  When the novel begins, it is wintertime, and a terrible snowstorm is on its way.  Once Amy returns from school, she and her grandmother stay inside, ‘safely-happy in the warmth of their mountain cottage while the blizzard raged outside.’  All of a sudden, ‘the door broke open, and there stood a shape so big that to Amy it was more of a monster than a man.  He said nothing, only grabbed some food and disappeared again into the stormy darkness.’  He is like something from ‘a bad dream, except that Amy and Mrs Bowen knew they were both awake.’  Grandmother and granddaughter are fearful; they wonder who he is, if he will return, and whether he is ‘hunter or hunted’.  They have, at this point, ‘no way of telling’.

So much attention has been paid to the rural surroundings throughout the novel.  Smith’s descriptions, particularly of the snowy landscape, are glorious.  When the blizzard begins, and Amy is walking home, she writes: ‘The flakes were big and loose, soft white lumps of snow blowing across sideways on the wind as though they too were in haste to get home.’  She goes on to describe the effects which such weather has on her young protagonist: ‘Snow, she thought, was a marvel – it was indeed!  Snow was like nothing else: it changed the world, the whole of life, in a matter of moments.  Not only the shapes of trees and grasses were changed but daily habits – even laws lost their power and had no meaning when snow fell.’  Throughout, Smith explores the weather, and the nuances in the way it changes, fantastically.  As Amy walks on, she captures the fear and disorientation which such a blizzard can bring with it: ‘There was nothing to see; nothing but a white swarming nothingness.  The hill that rose up in front of her was invisible and the snow itself had altered.  The flakes were smaller now and driving harder.  She was uncertain of how far she had come, uncertain of exactly where she was; and as she realized this she felt a conscious movement inside her, the sudden squeeze of sudden fright.’

There is a dark thread which weaves its way through the entire novel.  Whilst it is aimed at children, the writing is not at all simplified, and Smith does not intentionally hide things from her readers.  The mystery element, of the man’s identity and the appearance of two men who appear afterwards, has been well handled.  The denouement of No Way of Telling is wonderful; it both surprises and satisfies in equal measure.  Smith has created a wonderfully palpable tension in her novel.

No Way of Telling is the perfect wintry read.  Smith was shortlisted for the 1973 Carnegie Medal for this novel, and one can see why almost immediately.  Her story is compelling, her characters wonderfully realistic, and her prose layered and intelligent.  She explores the relationship between the young girl and her grandmother, and the way in which the appearance of the stranger impacts upon their daily life.  Smith’s narrative style is engaging, and her two protagonists feel three-dimensional.  The novel appealed to me greatly as an adult reader, and had it been published as an adult novel, I would not have been at all disappointed with it.

1

Three Novels: ‘Winter’, ‘War Crimes for the Home’, and ‘Turtles All the Way Down’

Winter by Ali Smith ***** 9780241207024
Anybody who knows me will not be surprised in the slightest to hear that Ali Smith’s Winter, the second novel in her seasonal quartet, was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2017. I received a signed copy for Christmas, and read it just three days afterwards. The novel is, again unsurprisingly, startlingly brilliant; I was swept in immediately, and was once again blown away by the quality and clarity of Smith’s writing. Winter is searing, and so clever; it is once incredibly topical, informed, and important. I cannot speak highly enough of the novel in my review; I shall merely end by saying that it is an absolutely brilliant literary offering from Smith, as per.

 

9780747561460War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen ****
I have very much enjoyed most of Liz Jensen’s novels to date, and the storyline of War Crimes for the Home would have piqued my interest even if I had not already been acquainted with her work. This is, I believe, my first foray into her historical fiction, and I found it very enjoyable. This takes place on the Home Front in Britain during the Second World War, and the battles fought on British soil, along with the effects which they brought, have been well captured. I liked the use of retrospect, and the memory loss which present-day Gloria suffers with has been handled well. Not at all a nostalgic portrayal of times gone by, War Crimes for the Home is sure to appeal to every fan of historical fiction that likes to be surprised a little in their reading.

 

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green **** 9780525555360
As with many readers, John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down was a highly anticipated read for me. I really enjoy his writing, particularly with regard to the dialogue which he sculpts; it is not always entirely authentic, in that I cannot imagine many teenagers speaking as articulately as he clearly can, but it is stuffed with original ideas, and beautiful turns of phrase. Green’s portrayal of anxiety is not a stereotypical one, such as I have read before; rather, it has depth. The plot is not a predictable, and it certainly throws up some surprises along the way. Whilst not my favourite of his novels, I still found it markedly difficult to put Turtles All the Way Down well… all the way down.

 

Purchase from The Book Depository

2

‘The Snow Tourist: A Search for the World’s Purest, Deepest Snowfall’ by Charlie English ****

I had been itching to read The Snow Tourist: A Search for the World’s Purest, Deepest Snowfall by Charlie English since I purchased it back in August 2017.  I felt that it would be best saved until late Autumn as a seasonal read, and it proved the perfect tome to settle down with in the fading afternoon light of November.

9781846270642Metro calls The Snow Tourist a ‘wonder and a delight’, and Joanna Kavenna deems it ‘an enchanting tale of one man’s search for snow, a report on the precarious state of our extreme climates, an evocative poem to lost childhood winters…’.  Robert Macfarlane says that The Snow Tourist is ‘a finely written and many-sided account of the fascination – both fearful and loving – that we have for snow.’  Wanderlust compares English’s ‘easy-going narrative style’ to Bill Bryson’s, which endeared me to it even further.

In The Snow Tourist, Charlie English has travelled all over the world, over a period of a few years, to find snow.  He begins in his home city of London, and journeys to such places as Vermont, Austria, and the Inuit-inhabited lands of northern Canada.  English certainly has part of an old-fashioned explorer within him; he seems fascinated with everything he sees, and everyone he meets, despite the odd wobbles he encounters due to the extreme cold.

Of his choice to undertake the journeys detailed in The Snow Tourist, he writes: ‘every autumn now my thoughts return to snow.  Snow is something I identify myself with.  Like my father, I am a snow person.’  This inheritance, passed down from his father, is all the more important to English, as his father committed suicide when he was just ten years old.  English goes on to detail his hopes for his travels: ‘The expedition I decided upon one grey day in London consisted of a series of journeys linked by a single natural form – snow.  I would travel to the best snow in the world, discover how people lived with snow, and what they did with it.  As on previous expeditions, the principal objective would be the journey itself, the knowledge and experiences I would gather, and the people I would meet along the way.’

The Snow Tourist is filled with startling facts and conjectures.  English writes, for instance, that ‘someone once estimated that a million billion snow crystals were created around the earth every second, in a jumble of shapes and sizes, from simple hexagonal prisms to flat plates and many-footed stars.’  English also explores such things as the history of skiing.

English intersperses his travels, and writing about those whom he encounters, with memories of snow from his own childhood.  He remembers the following, rather touching moment: ‘A Super-8 film shows me and my brother being towed on the back of a sledge to a famous local hill, Granny’s Bump.  My father is in his wellington boots, red weekend trousers and Norwegian fisherman’s jumper.  My mother is wrapped in a long padded coat, with a woollen hat.  My brother and I wobble about on the sledge and fall off as they haul us along by a rope.  Watching it again now, these three flickering minutes give me a sense of warmth and loss, of nostalgie de la neige.’  Throughout, there is a near-perfect balance struck between facts and personal experience.

The Snow Tourist is engaging and fascinating from the outset, and English’s chatty yet informative prose style makes his book accessible to all.  The travelogue is reflective yet up to the minute, detailing the effects which climate change has had upon some of the snowiest places on earth, and how rapidly the snowfall which some of us live with for many months of the year is beginning to melt way ahead of expected time.  There is an awareness throughout of ways in which snow is changing, and how this affects different cultures which rely upon it.  A lot of historical detail has also been included – for instance, the history of Western snow science.  The ‘Dictionary of Snow’ included as an appendix is a lovely touch, and provides a lot of interesting facts to retain, as well as a slew of different words for different kinds of snow.

Purchase from The Book Depository

0

One From the Archive: ‘My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Winter Romances’, edited by Stephanie Perkins ****

I will just highlight the fact that I do not tend to read young adult books at all, but wanted to read something a little different a couple of years ago.  I received a review copy of this, and enjoyed it far more than I first thought.  The moral of the story is read everything, folks.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Winter Romances features a variety of authors who largely write solely within the Young Adult genre, from contemporary fantasy and the paranormal, to ‘the strange things that love can do to people’.  Edited by Stephanie Perkins, this collection features one of her tales, along with work by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Matt de la Pena, Laini Taylor, Jenny Han, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire and Kiersten White. 9781250059314

The blurb of My True Love Gave to Me calls it ‘a gift for teen readers and beyond’.  It is ‘the perfect collection of short stories to keep you warm this winter…  Each is a little gem, filled with the enchanting magic of first love and the fun festive holidays’.  The inspiration within the collection is vast, and whilst all of the authors have used the festive period in their stories, they have done so in decidedly different ways.

Rainbow Rowell’s tale – the lovely ‘Midnights’ – opens the book.  In it, her protagonist, Mags, sits in her friend’s garden on the 31st of December and reflects upon three of her previous New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Each of them revolve around her allergy-prone friend Noel, who is described as ‘her person’; the one whom she turns to in periods of strife.  Rowell’s writing is sharp and her characterisation works marvellously.  In Kelly Link’s interesting ‘The Lady and The Fox’, a mysterious figure in a beautifully embroidered coat befriends a young girl named Miranda during successive Christmas celebrations.

In Matt de la Pena’s ‘Angels in the Snow’, a young man faces spending Christmas alone, hours away from his family.  Jenny Han’s story ‘Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me’ is told from the perspective of Natalie, a Korean who was adopted by Santa, and is the only human girl to live in the North Pole.  In Stephanie Perkins’ ‘It’s a Yuletide Miracle’, protagonist Marigold has gone in search of a boy who works in a Christmas tree lot near her apartment because she ‘needed his voice’ for a project; the sweetest of scenes and most sharply observed conversation ensues.  The narrator of David Levithan’s ‘Your Temporary Santa’ dresses up as Santa Claus to keep the dream alive for his boyfriend’s younger sister, despite being Jewish.  In Holly Black’s ‘Krampuslauf’, a New Year’s Eve celebration converges with a hearty – and clever – dose of magical realism.

Whilst I have not discussed each story here, it is fair to say that there is not a weak link in the collection.  Only two of the stories were not to my personal taste, but they were still interesting to read.  My True Love Gave to Me is both quirky and memorable, and it provides a great introduction to a wealth of different authors writing contemporary YA.  One can never quite work out where the majority of the stories are going to end, or what will occur within them; they are largely very unpredictable, and incredibly sweet. The physical book itself is lovely, with its duck egg blue and gold cover, fluorescent pink page edging and gold ribbon bookmark. My True Love Gave to Me is a great collection, in which many different viewpoints have been considered.  The characters which have been created are both believable and unpredictable, and each narrative voice has been crafted with the utmost care.  It is sure to make every reader – whether teenage or older – feel marvellously festive, and is a great antidote to those winter blues.

Purchase from The Book Depository

3

Winter Reading Recommendations

The season is turning; trees are shedding leaves, the temperature is beginning to fall, and the Christmas decorations are already out in the shops.  That can only mean one thing; it’s time to crack out the hot water bottle, vat of hot chocolate, and a stack of suitably wintry books.  Below are eight recommendations which I think will be perfect to curl up with this winter.

1. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson 9780312625412
‘Everyone knows the Moomins sleep through the winter. But this year, Moomintroll has woken up early. So while the rest of the family slumber, he decides to visit his favorite summer haunts. But all he finds is this strange white stuff. Even the sun is gone! Moomintroll is angry: whoever Winter is, she has some nerve. Determined to discover the truth about this most mysterious of all seasons, Moomintroll goes where no Moomin has gone before.’


2. A Winter Book by Tove Jansson
‘Drawn from youth and older age, and spanning most of the twentieth century, this newly translated selection provides a thrilling showcase of the great Finnish writer’s prose, scattered with insights and home truths. It has been selected and is introduced by Ali Smith. A Winter Book features 13 stories from Tove Jansson’s first book for adults,The Sculptor’s Daughter (1968) plus 7 of her most cherished later stories (from 1971 to 1996), translated into English and published here for the first time.’


97801413894003. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
‘Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent.’
4. Ariel by Sylvia Plath
‘The poems in Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, including many of her best-known such as ‘Lady Lazarus’, ‘Daddy’, ‘Edge’ and ‘Paralytic’, were all written between the publication in 1960 of Plath’s first book, The Colossus, and her death in 1963. “If the poems are despairing, vengeful and destructive, they are at the same time tender, open to things, and also unusually clever, sardonic, hardminded …’

5. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
‘Calvino’s masterpiece opens with a scene that’s reassuringly commonplace: apparently. Indeed, it’s taking place now. A reader goes into a bookshop to buy a book: not any book, but the latest Calvino, the book you are holding in your hands. Or is it? Are you the reader? Is this the book? Beware. All assumptions are dangerous on this most bewitching switch-back ride to the heart of storytelling.’

6. The Waves by Virginia Woolf 9780141182711
‘Tracing the lives of a group of friends, The Waves follows their development from childhood to youth and middle age. While social events, individual achievements and disappointments form its narrative, the novel is most remarkable for the rich poetic language that expresses the inner life of its characters: their aspirations, their triumphs and regrets, their awareness of unity and isolation. Separately and together, they query the relationship of past to present, and the meaning of life itself.’

97819060401857. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
‘Rene is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building. She maintains a carefully constructed persona as someone uncultivated but reliable, in keeping with what she feels a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Rene: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Rene lives with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever. By turns moving and hilarious, this unusual novel became the top-selling book in France in 2007.’

8. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (predictable, but I could not resist recommending this beautiful novel!)
‘A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska, Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child was a top ten bestseller in hardback and paperback, and went on to be a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding: is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her? Written with the clarity and vividness of the Russian fairy tale from which it takes its inspiration, The Snow Child is an instant classic.’

 

Purchase from The Book Depository

3

Winter Reads

As some of you might already know, winter is my absolutely favourite season of the year. With Christmas being less than 10 days away and the weather here in Greece finally starting to feel like winter, what better opportunity to cosy up with a blanket, a hot beverage of your liking and a great wintry book.

Therefore, here I come with a list of books that I plan to read during December (and perhaps January). Some of them I’ve already read in the two weeks of December that have gone past and some of them I haven’t got the chance to savour just yet.

1. ‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey snow-child

‘Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.’

2. ‘Wintersmith’ by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching put one foot wrong, made just one little mistake …

And now the spirit of winter is in love with her. He gives her roses and icebergs and showers her with snowflakes, which is tough when you’re thirteen, but also just a little bit … cool.

If Tiffany doesn’t work out how to deal with him, there will never be another springtime …

Crackling with energy and humour, Wintersmith is the third title in a sequence about Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men – the Nac Mac Feegles who are determined to help Tiffany, whether she wants it or not.‘

3. ‘A Winter Book’ by Tove Jansson

Following the widely acclaimed and bestselling The Summer Book, here is a Winter Book collection of some of Tove Jansson’s best loved and most famous stories. Drawn from youth and older age, and spanning most of the twentieth century, this newly translated selection provides a thrilling showcase of the great Finnish writer’s prose, scattered with insights and home truths. It has been selected and is introduced by Ali Smith, and there are afterwords by Philip Pullman, Esther Freud and Frank Cottrell Boyce.

The Winter Book features thirteen stories from Tove Jansson’s first book for adults, The Sculptor’s Daughter (1968) along with seven of her most cherished later stories (from 1971 to 1996), translated into English and published here for the first time.‘

6901464. ‘The Snow Sister’ by Emma Carroll

Ever since her sister, Agnes, died, Pearl has a tradition every time it snows. She makes a person out of snow. A snow sister. It makes Christmas feel a little less lonely.

On Christmas Eve, her father receives a letter about a long-lost relative’s will. Is their luck about to change? In anticipation of a better Christmas, Pearl goes to beg credit at Mr Noble’s grocery to get ingredients for a Christmas pudding. But she is refused, and chased down the street where she is hit by a hansom cab. The snow is falling so hard that they can’t take her home. She’ll have to stay at Flintfield Manor overnight, in a haunted room… Will Pearl make it home for Christmas?

This gorgeously evocative Victorian Christmas story is the perfect stocking filler for girls ages 9-12.‘

5. ‘Hogafather’ by Terry Pratchett

It’s the night before Hogswatch. And it’s too quiet.

Where is the big jolly fat man? There are those who believe and those who don’t, but either way it’s not right to find Death creeping down chimneys and trying to say Ho Ho Ho. Superstition makes things work in Discworld, and undermining it can have Consequences, particularly on the last night of the year when the time is turning. Susan the gothic governess has got to sort everything out by morning, otherwise there won’t be a morning. Ever again…‘

6. ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding’ by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie’s seasonal Poirot and Marple short story collection, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (a.k.a The Theft of the Royal Ruby)
The Mystery of the Spanish Chest
The Under Dog
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
The Dream
Greenshaw’s Folly‘

7. ‘Winter Siege’ by Ariana Franklin & Samantha Norman

‘A powerful historical novel by the late Ariana Franklin and her daughter Samantha Norman, The Siege Winter is a tour de force mystery and murder, adventure and intrigue, a battle for a crown, told by two courageous young women whose fates are intertwined in twelfth century England’s devastating civil war.

1141. England is engulfed in war as King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, vie for the crown. In this dangerous world, not even Emma, an eleven-year-old peasant, is safe. A depraved monk obsessed with redheads kidnaps the ginger-haired girl from her village and leaves her for dead. When an archer for hire named Gwyl finds her, she has no memory of her previous life. Unable to abandon her, Gwyl takes the girl with him, dressing her as a boy, giving her a new name—Penda—and teaching her to use a bow. But Gwyn knows that the man who hurt Penda roams free, and that a scrap of evidence she possesses could be very valuable.

Gwyl and Penda make their way to Kenilworth, a small but strategically important fortress that belongs to fifteen-year-old Maud. Newly wedded to a boorish and much older husband after her father’s death, the fierce and determined young chatelaine tempts fate and Stephen’s murderous wrath when she gives shelter to the empress.

Aided by a garrison of mercenaries, including Gwyl and his odd red-headed apprentice, Maud will stave off Stephen’s siege for a long, brutal winter that will bring a host of visitors to Kenilworth—kings, soldiers . . . and a sinister monk with deadly business to finish.’

8. ‘Letters From Father Christmas’ by J.R.R. Tolkien 51nwzhwkqjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Every December J.R.R. Tolkien’s children would receive letters from Father Christmas. From the first note to his eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant correspondence to his daughter in 1943, this book collects all the remarkable letters and pictures in one enchanting edition.

This revised edition of Tolkien’s famous illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children includes a number of pictures and letters that have not been seen in print before.‘

9. ‘Winter’s Tales’ by Isak Dinesen

In Isak Dinesen’s universe, the magical enchantment of the fairy tale and the moral resonance of myth coexist with an unflinching grasp of the most obscure human strengths and weaknesses. A despairing author abandons his wife, but in the course of a long night’s wandering, he learns love’s true value and returns to her, only to find her a different woman than the one he left. A landowner, seeking to prove a principle, inadvertently exposes the ferocity of mother love. A wealthy young traveler melts the hauteur of a lovely woman by masquerading as her aged and loyal servant.

Shimmering and haunting, Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales transport us, through their author’s deft guidance of our desire to imagine, to the mysterious place where all stories are born.‘

Have you read any of these books? What does your winter reading list consist of?