Christmas Book Advent Calendar : A Christmas Card by Paul Theroux

‘A Christmas Card by Paul Theroux’

This is the first in a series of my Christmas book advent Calendar, describing some especially festive moments of a few favourite books.

Today’s chosen book, has the theme of a spooky, eerie and magical Christmas.

‘A Christmas Card’ by Paul Theroux is a short Christmas novella set in the countryside of the east coast of the USA. Paul Theroux was himself born in Medford, Massachusetts and the snowy scenes and cold climate described in the book are indeed evocative of that part of the world during wintertime.

The story is told through the eyes of a young boy called Marcel. One year, Marcel’s father returns from working abroad in Asia and it is his idea to spend Christmas in the solitary country house, deep in the woods that the family has recently acquired. The small family consisting of Father, Mother, Marcel and his little brother Louis, set out early one winter morning from their warm apartment in the city, towards the wilderness of the woods along the coast. They drive all day and as evening and darkness approaches and they are stuck in a heavy snowstorm, Father realises that he is lost.

The family seek shelter for the night in an old, rambling looking mansion – what they presume to be a hotel and the owner, an old man in a crooked hat and black cape shows them the old treasures paintings in his house and the next morning just disappears.

He does, however, leave them a Christmas card on the mantelpiece that young Marcel believes has magical powers. The card provides them with magical bursts of light, guides them and has a will of its own …

As opposed to a cosy Christmas tale, ‘A Christmas Card’ by Paul Theroux is a bit of a spooky, eerie Christmas tale. If you enjoy a hint of magic and the supernatural during Christmas time, then this might be the ideal novella for you. The perfect length to read over an afternoon, with a mince pie and a hot chocolate to hand.

Let me know of your favourite books to read during Christmas.

Diary of the Ordinary Happenings of a Kolkatan Lady (1/12/19-8/12/19)

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This is a diary and account of the extremely ordinary happenings that occur in my life in Kolkata. We (Me, my husband and 7 year old daughter) live in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood in Kolkata. We moved back to India after spending ten years in the US. Be prepared for some moaning and groaning because as you will see – life in Kolkata has its fair share of ups and downs.

Find November 2019 diary entries here.


Sunday, 1st December 2019

Lo and behold, the last month of the year is upon us. This year, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to reading and writing. It’s been a year of house buying, renovations, moving and settling in – all valuable new life lessons for certain but I’m glad that the episode is behind us.

Look forward to a new year and a fresh beginning.

Mum visited us late on Saturday and we spent the evening putting up the Christmas tree, lights, christmas cards on a string and decorations. I put Christmas carols on and we drink hot tea (note to self: must make hot mulled apple juice – Meli would like it). Am able to fully appreciate last year’s crop of beautiful Christmas cards, simply hung on a piece of string and illuminated with twinkly fair lights. This is something our Mother would do for us during past Christmases in England. The part of Christmas I find the most enjoyable is the observance of family traditions – vestiges of the past that come back to comfort, year after year.

Feel disheartened on Sunday evening at the prospect of full and very busy week ahead. As usual feel that Time has conspired to constrict the weekends and elongate the work week.

Monday, 2nd December 2019

Seems that new life lessons still present themselves. This time in the form of trying to sell our old flat that belongs to my parents. The escapist in me would much rather not have to deal with it, and instead disappear from time to time, into a vintage novel set in the English countryside. This is why am dipping into ‘Milton Place’ by Elisabeth de Waal from time to time. Most excellent book with developing and unexpected drama that I feel better equipped to handle. 

Meli has an extra singing class in the evening and spend the time she is at class in walking about the neighbourhood. Clock in 10,000 steps at the end of day and feel most pleased with myself. Receive lovely advent card from Beth Bonini and Meli and I take turns opening two windows. Impatiently awaiting arrival of Christmas puzzle.

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019

Almighty informs me of the unfortunate incident of his lost cellphone. We have a new upstairs neighbour, a neighbour whom none of us has yet met and who lives for the better part of the year in Singapore. ‘Madam’ as Almighty calls her was leaving for the airport on one such flying visit. Almighty in assisting her with loading her luggage into the car had his cellphone unwittingly slip out of his pocket into depths of car boot. By the time Almighty discovers disappearance of phone, phone is already at Dum Dum Airport, en route to Singapore. Plans are currently being hatched for its safe recovery. 

Wednesday, 4th December 2019

Went to the Post Office to post dear Brother’s Christmas parcel to frosty, far-off Berlin only to be informed – no stamps at local Post Office. Have a silent tirade against country’s deplorable shortage of postage stamps and gird my loins to travel to nearest one at Jadavpur University. Pick up Meli from school bus stop, trundle her into nearest available auto-rickshaw, armed with Christmas parcel and savoury snack for Meli (to tide over the lunch time hunger pangs). Arrive at destination and take out parcel only to find it besmirched with oily residue of Meli’s snack – a savoury paneer puff. Refuse to go home and change wrapping. Thankfully receive requisite postage stamps and proceed to cover up oily spots with numerous stamps. Take comfort in the thought that dear Brother may (or may not) derive satisfaction from lingering remnants of paneer puff from the Homeland.

Almighty’s cell phone in Singapore. Very sad for him.

Thursday, 5th December 2019

We are four books into #BookishAdvent this year. A book a day in the month of December till Christmas Day. Only this year I don’t have a book for every day, so I imagine we will skip a few days. We don’t really buy Meli many toys or things but I do spoil her outrageously with childen’s books. I imagine not too many 7 year olds have such an extensive collections of children’s books. And by books I’m taking about the gems of literature that are nearly obsolete. Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Noel Streatfeild, Malcolm Saville, Edith Nesbit, Ruby Ferguson and all the wonderful children’s classics. 

I don’t think it can spoil anyone to be spoilt by a wealth of books.

Learn how to make paper snowflakes from the Internet for Meli’s art project. There’s a first time for everything. Now want to dress all the windows in house with them.

Friday, 6th December 2019

Dad’s 78th birthday, although he will insist on calling himself 79. Go to Mum and Dad’s after Meli’s school, laden with mostly edible gifts. Mishti doi, roshogolla (men at sweet shop know me well now), fenugreek paratha and more. Also have a vintage facsimile edition of Hercule Poirot’s ‘Peril at End House’ for him. You can’t really go wrong with Agatha Christie with my Dad. Have planned to visit Alipore Zoo tomorrow as part of the birthday celebrations. 

Saturday, 7th December 2019

At around midday after an early lunch we take an Uber to Alipore Zoo. The outside of the Zoo is buzzing as usual and we buy our tickets. Inside of the Zoo is bursting at the seams too although not the heaving crowds that are to be seen closer to Christmas Day. Strange fact : many people, particularly from the suburbs and villages like to celebrate Christmas with a visit to the Zoo. Don’t ask me why?). Visits to the Zoo are annual affairs, usually led by the enthusiasm of Mum and Dad and Meli. This time around Meli had brought a notebook and pencil and proceeded to painstakingly write down the names of each animal she saw. We started with the primates first, proceeded to giraffe, kangaroo, zebra and elephant, several types of deer, crocodiles, panthers and lions etc. we were actually able to step into the Reptile House this time around and saw a number of alarming specimens. Is it just me, or does everyone, when seeing a scary species imagine head on encounters between self and animal, to the detriment of self? 

Lots of people having picnics and lie downs in the picnic areas- more so than the people viewing the animals. Spy lots of steel tiffin boxes with egg curry, puffy luchi and lots more. We peel oranges and indulge in sweetmeats in the gazebo.

Sunday, 8th December 2019

Haven’t had a relaxed weekend in a long time and although there were many odd jobs to do around the house and errands to run, I was able to devote some time to the things I like best- one of them being reading and losing oneself immersively in a book. Being allowed two or three hours of uninterrupted reading time is something of a treat, particularly with modern day distractions and our obsession of glorifying the state of being perpetually busy.

After finishing ‘Milton Place’ late on Friday I decided that it was time to launch myself into festive reading. Here are a few books I have pulled together for that purpose:

  1. Christmas Mouse by Miss Read
  2. Stories for Christmas by Alison Uttley
  3. Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories
  4. A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer (previously published as Envious Casca)
  5. Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith
  6. Village Christmas by Miss Read (a re-read)

Spent stray bits of Sunday listening to Classic FM and reading the Christmas Mouse. Miss Read manages to write such cozy, meaningful Christmas stories with all the delicious details of Christmas food, preparations and presents. Despite the lack of plenty there is a focus on the feeling of goodwill, sharing and thinking beyond the immediate family circle.

Awaiting arrival of highly anticipated 1000 piece Christmas puzzle.



The Thoughtful Holiday Gift List for the Booklovers in Your Life

For the Mystery Lover

For the Relaxation Seeker

For the Picture Book Lover

For the Movie Lover

For the Older Child

For the Childlike Adventure Seeker

For the Poirot Lover

For the Poetry Lover

For the Literarature Lover

For the Romantic Escapist

For the Charming Vintage Romance Novel Lover

For the Classics Lover

For the Person Who Has Little Time to Read

For the Music Lover

For the Anne of Green Gables Fan

For Yourself

Or If You Prefer Something More Contemporary