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'Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait' Mavis Gallant In 1950, THE NEW YORKER accepted one of Mavis Gallant's short stories for publication and she has since become the one of the most accomplished and respected short story writers of her time. Gallant is an undisputed master whose peerless prose captures the range of human experience in her sweeping portraits set in Europe in the second half of the last century. An expatriate herself, her stories deal with exile, displacement, of love and of estranged emotions, but they are never conventional. This collection of fifty-two stories, written between 1953 and 1995, is timeless, to be savoured and re-read.
The story is simple, seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy. As an adult he remembers the way things were back home on the farm on the west coast of Cape Breton. The time was the 1940s, but the hens and the cows and the pigs and the sheep and the horse made it seem ancient. The family of six children excitedly waits for Christmas and two-year-old Kenneth, who liked Halloween a lot, asks, "Who are you going to dress up as at Christmas? I think I'll be a snowman." They wait especially for their oldest brother, Neil, working on "the Lake boats" in Ontario, who sends intriguing packages of "clothes" back for Christmas. On Christmas Eve he arrives, to the delight of his young siblings, and shoes the horse before taking them by sleigh through the woods to the nearby church. The adults, including the narrator for the first time, sit up late to play the gift-wrapping role of Santa Claus. The story is simple, short and sweet, but with a foretaste of sorrow. Not a word is out of place. Matching and enhancingthe text are black and white illustrations by Peter Rankin, making this book a perfect little gift. For readers from nine to ninety-nine, our classic Christmas story by one of our greatest writers.
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