I loved this concise and cheerful Christmas-detective book -- covering everything from why Christmas has long featured certain types of food to the songs we sing and the fairytales we believe in (not least about Santa Claus). Next year it will make a wonderful Christmas gift -- and I say this as one that is shy about buying others books these days. We all like what we like, but my goodness you'd have to be some sort of Grinch not to get some pleasure from this!
The ending in particular took me by surprise.
In the Epilogue we are told:
An annual feast will always have something missing: the empty chair at the Christmas table where somebody used to sit, who is now missing. And one day, I suppose, I shall be missing too; and you, dear reader, will be missing; and everyone we sit down with this year, old and young, will one day be missing. And the feast will continue.
That is how it always has been and must be. Things disappear, like pieces being slowly removed from a jigsaw puzzle. For children, Christmas is everything they might be given; for an adult Christmas is everything we have lost. This is a truth that was as clear to Charles Dickens as it was to George Michael.
George Michael! The one that wrote 'Last Christmas', the biggest-selling pop song that never became Number 1 on the charts, I think I read in the news report -- and the one that died in the middle of Christmas Day. The uncanny mention gave me a start.