by Emer O’Toole
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” begins Alcott’s tale of the March sisters. There’s vain Amy, bossy Meg, angelic Beth and headstrong Jo. Loosely based on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Little Women is didactic in tone. However, there’s one character that stops the novel from choking in its own self-improving message: Jo. The novel ends the same way it begins, at Christmas. This Christmas, however, is less grim and Alcott remarks “what a comfort that is.”
Love Actually (2003)
From the writer behind some of the best British romantic comedies- Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Four Weddings and a Funeral- Richard Curtis’ seasonal feelgood comedy was an inevitable success. Love Actually employs a multi-stranded format, cleverly intertwining ten stories, loosely connected by family and friends of friends. Featuring a star-studded cast (including Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth and Keira Knightley), the film centres on love in all of its various forms with no shortage of festive cheer.
No one writes about the Jazz Age quite like the man who coined the term himself- F. Scott Fitzgerald. In Fitzgerald’s short story Winter Dreams, Dexter Green opts to fulfil his ‘winter dreams’ by attempting to fit into the wealthy world of Judy Jones. There are many parallels to The Great Gatsby since both protagonists are self-made men, desperate to overcome their poor backgrounds to attract a woman but in both cases the object of their desire turns out to be unattainable.
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)
A parody of Dickens’ beloved tale, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol gives the original tale a twist in the way that only the historical comedy can. Ebenezer Blackadder is the “kindest and loveliest man in all of England”, full of Christmas spirit until he is shown an alternative life by the Ghost (of all Christmases). It’s initially a little strange to see Blackadder being so kind but inevitable after the Ghosts visit, he returns to the cynic we know and love.
Stardust (Neil Gaiman)
Gaiman’s modern fairytale has all of the best elements of Grimms Fairy Tales, Alice and Wonderland, Peter Pan and the Chronicles of Narnia combined. Written in Gaiman’s trademark prose, Stardust is a unique combination of wit, fantasy and quirkiness. Reading Stardust is the perfect way to pass a winter evening as Gaiman writes about “the distant winter on the air- a mixture of night-mist and crisp darkness and the tang of fallen leaves.”}