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The whitefox team recommend some of their favourite books to read over the festive period – on blustery winter evenings curled up in front of a crackling fire with a hot drink in hand, perhaps a pet asleep on your lap, and carol singing in the distance.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy are responsible for keeping a home while their father is off at war. At the same time, they must come to terms with their individual personalities – and make the transition from girlhood to womanhood.
‘This cosy classic is a must-read for me every winter. I think everyone can identify with one of the March sisters and the themes surrounding family, which is what makes it so special and timeless.’ – Claudia Besant | Marketing Executive
Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson
Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn’t married. Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck with three little girls in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster.
Ruby tells the story of The Family, from the day at the end of the nineteenth century when a travelling French photographer captures frail, beautiful Alice, Ruby’s great-grandmother, and her children, to the startling, witty and memorable events of Ruby’s own life.
‘While perhaps not an obviously festive choice, Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum provides the perfect escape from our own family dramas by getting us lost in someone else’s. Dark enough to sustain intrigue, but with a healthy dose of comic relief, it’s a great choice for when you need a breather from the Christmas chaos.’ – Jess King | Sales & Consumer Marketing Manager
Small Things Like These, Clare Keegan
It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him to confront both his past and the complicit silences of a town controlled by the church.
Already an international bestseller, Small Things Like These is a deeply affecting story of hope, quiet heroism, and empathy from one of our most critically lauded and iconic writers.
‘I read this book recently and, although it’s short, it most definitely packs a punch. Set in a small Irish town in the run-up to Christmas, it’s a beautiful moral tale that embodies what really matters in the festive season – kindness, tenderness and hope.’ – Rosie Pearce | Senior Editorial Project Manager
A Christmas Murder of Crows, D.M. Austin
December 1923. In the picturesque Westmorland village of Crowthwaite, the barmaid at The Black Feather entertains a traveller with a local story of pagan sacrifice – the Murder of Crows. Unbeknownst to the guests already arriving for Christmas at Crowthwaite Castle, the storytelling foreshadows things to come.
As he does every year, Sir Henry de Trouville, tenth Baronet, has demanded his family join him for the festive season. But family friction soon begins to flare, and when the snow falls to herald Christmas it brings with it a shocking series of events.
Just before the passes through the Pennines are closed off, Detective Inspector Gilbert Dunderdale of Manchester City Police arrives at the castle to investigate the evil, and inconvenient, business of murder.
‘I like to match my fiction to the weather and now that the frost has finally arrived I’ll be going full murder mystery with A Christmas Murder of Crows by D.M. Austin. It’s set in the 1920s in a small village in Cumbria that’s soon closed off by the winter snow. I’ll be expecting sinister locals, bacchanalian aristocrats and some pagan folklore. And, of course, plenty of murder.’ – Caroline McArthur | Project Manager
Spirits of the Season: Christmas Hauntings (Tales of the Weird), edited by Tanya Kirk
Festive cheer turns to maddening fear in this new collection of seasonal hauntings, presenting the best Christmas ghost stories from the 1850s to the 1960s.
The traditional trappings of the holiday are turned upside down as restless spirits disrupt the merry games of the living, Christmas trees teem with spiteful pagan presences and the Devil himself treads the boards at the village pantomime.
As the cold night of winter closes in and the glow of the hearth begins to flicker and fade, the uninvited visitors gather in the dark in this distinctive assortment of haunting tales.
‘Being from the States, where Christmas is all cheer, goodness and light, I’ve loved discovering the darker tales traditional to a British celebration of the long, dark nights when Christmas nears. I dip into these great collections from the British Library year after year. This is one of the best of the anthologies with big-hitters like M. R. James, E. Nesbit and Algernon Blackwood, along with some excellent but lesser-known writers. Get cosy but mind the dark corners of the room.’ – Chris Wold | Sales & Business Development Director
Cold Enough for Snow, Jessica Au
A mother and daughter travel from abroad to meet in Tokyo: they walk along the canals in the autumn evenings, escape the typhoon rains, share meals in small cafés and restaurants, and visit galleries to see some of the city’s most radical modern art. All the while, they talk: about the weather, horoscopes, clothes and objects; about family, distance and memory. But uncertainties abound. Who is really speaking here – is it only the daughter? And what is the real reason behind this elliptical, perhaps even spectral, journey? At once a careful reckoning and an elegy, Cold Enough for Snow questions whether any of us speak a common language, which dimensions can contain love, and what claim we have to truly know another’s inner world.
‘A short, deceptively simple and stunning book. The warmth of Au’s prose is as good as a mulled wine on a cold, wintery evening. Filled with meaningful memories and reflections, it’s a brilliant book to read as we near the end of the year.’ – Claudia Besant | Marketing Executive
Companion Piece, Ali Smith
A celebration of companionship in all its timeless and contemporary, legendary and unpindownable, spellbinding and shapeshifting forms…
It follows the unique achievement of her Seasonal cycle of novels – Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer – written and published in as close as possible to real time, between 2016 and 2020, absorbing and refracting the times we are living through.
‘This Christmas I’ll be reading Ali Smith’s Companion Piece, an unexpected fifth instalment of her extraordinary and highly topical Seasonal Quartet. I read Winter one Christmas a few years back, and since then her writing has always made me think of being bundled up indoors with snow outside and a good book in my hands. Definitely one of the greatest living authors we have.’ – Silvia Crompton | Editorial Director
The Christie Affair, Nina de Gramont
In December 1926, the already famous crime novelist Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days, causing a world-wide media storm. This fact is the basis for Nina de Gramont’s masterful novel published earlier this year, The Christie Affair, which was also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. De Gramont weaves a backstory around the potential reasons behind Christie leaving her home, her husband and her only daughter, involving an affair, the Great War and a tragedy in Ireland. Oh, and there’s a classic murder mystery set in a hotel in Harrogate to be solved as well.
‘This isn’t a Christmas book, but Christie seems to be in the ether at the moment, from TV to film to Lucy Worsley’s recent biography, and this is a great winter read, which also has something important to say about our age-old attitude towards women disappearing.’ – John Bond | CEO
The Island of Missing Trees, Elif Shafak
Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.
Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited – her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.
‘I haven’t read it yet, but it is first on my reading list for the holidays. A beautiful and mystical book about love, roots and tradition. In other words, the perfect winter warmer.’ – Kiana Palombo | Editorial Project Assistant
The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes, John Wyndham
The Midwich Cuckoos: In the sleepy English village of Midwich, a mysterious silver object appears and all the inhabitants fall unconscious. A day later, the object is gone and everyone awakens unharmed—except that all the women in the village are discovered to be pregnant.
The Kraken Wakes: Ships are sinking for no apparent reason, carrying hundreds to a dark underwater grave. Strange fireballs race through the sky above the deepest trenches of the oceans. Something is about to show itself, something terrible and alien, a force capable of causing global catastrophe.
‘I like to lean into the tradition of ghost stories at Christmas – or, at least, unsettling stories. The dark days, the depths of winter (although I’m now LA-based so I don’t get to see much of these anymore), the strange shift of seasons – all of these conjure up for me a deliciously spooky sense that it is the right time of year to huddle indoors around a fire and scare myself silly with stories of what might be outside in the dark. This year I’ve been on a John Wyndham kick. I’d never read him before, but have just finished The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes – both total corkers. I love the contrast in his writing between the everyday and the surreal, and – although the books are definitely horror – I also find him strangely hilarious. I think he’s a great Christmas read.’ – Annabel Wright | CSO & LA Editorial Director