Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days
by Jeanette Winterson
Jonathan Cape

There are more than 12 reasons to cherish Jeanette Winterson’s new story collection. In her lovely, infor­mative, moving introduction, she writes: “Christmas has a special delight.” For Winterson, stories were beacons of light blocking out childhood darkness. Locked in a coal hole by her abusive parents, she jokes she could either count coal or escape into “an unlimited world of the imagination”. Winterson plays merry havoc with Christmas commonplaces. A snowman may be more than meets the eye (or not). Christ’s birth is narrated by the donkey beside the manger (shades of Virginia Woolf’s doggy biography, Flush, perhaps). Another narrative reimagines Winterson’s own early years: a child gets locked, not in a coal hole, but a toy store. While the tales unsettle, they generally meander towards optimism, learning and Winterson’s central message, inspired by Christina Rossetti’s In the Bleak Midwinter: “We give ourselves. We give ourselves to others. We give ourselves to ourselves. We give.” Readers also receive, in this case, 12 mouth-watering recipes, including Chinese dumplings from Paris bookstore Shakespeare & Co and Kamila Shamsie’s turkey biryani. Read ’em and eat?