Spirit Of Christmas by Jeanette Winterson, 2016
The magic trick:
Characters lacking magic, redeemed by a story that isn’t
The story states its cynicism cleverly in the opening twist on an established holiday favorite:
“It was the night before Christmas, and all over the house nothing was stirring because even the mouse was exhausted.”
Soon, though, it becomes clear that the cynicism doesn’t belong to the story; it belongs to the couple at the center of the plot. That’s an important distinction to note, because the story proves to be filled with earnest Christmas magic.
That magic pushed against the characters’ exhaustion produces a delightful holiday tale.
And that’s quite a trick on Winterson’s part.
Father Christmas smiled at us and waved.
The child waved back and climbed out of the car. Locks didn’t seems to make any difference to her. Hackles jumped out and followed her. Santa clapped his hands. The house was in darkness, but a sash window on the first floor was pushed up by some unseen inside hand. Three bulging sacks thudded to the ground. Santa Claus shouldered them easily and loaded them onto his sled.
“He’s robbing the place,” you said opening the car door and getting out. “Hey, you!”
The figure in red came forward convivially, stamping his boots and rubbing his hand.
“We can only offer this service once a year,” he told you.
“What bloody service?”
Santa Claus took the opportunity to fill his pipe. He blew star-shaped smoke rings, blue into the white air.
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