Books: A beastly holiday
MISSING THE MIDNIGHT by Jane Gardam Sinclair-Stevenson pounds 10
Sunday 09 November 1997
The narrator of the title story is missing more than the midnight service as her late train drags into the station. As she sourly anticipates a grim Christmas with her uncongenial family, her curiosity is awakened by the vibrant group in her carriage: an expensive-looking pair of fiances and an old priest, clearly the young man's father. There is a moment of grace on alighting as the priest lifts his hand in blessing to the discontented narrator, and then the story is over. Has she been reconciled to her lot? Gardam is inscrutable.
These are two of the "Five Carols", stories dealing obliquely or directly with the Christmas spirit. "Old Filth" is a snowbound tale of reconciliation
between two aged foes; "Miss Mistletoe" begins, uncompromisingly: "Daisy Flagg was a parasite." "Christmas Island", post-Christian, apocalyptic, is frightening science fiction. There are also "Five Grotesques" - a working man has a diamond embedded in his neck; a fashion editor suddenly discovers luxuriant blonde hair cascading from her ears - and "Two Hauntings".
"The Green Man" is a marvellous, lengthy piece, in which the fertility symbol of legend eats porridge, rides a bike, gets burgled and visits the corn chandler. Lest this seem too prosaic, he also captures mermaids. "Soul Mates" is so enigmatic that you can hardly work out what - if anything - has happened. On their first post-retirement holiday, Pat and and Francis Phipps meet a congenial couple who invite them to their home, but the visit brings both menace and comfort, their new friends vanish, and the couple are left shivering at their own lack of substance.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 5 The inventor of the Facebook 'like' button says he never made a 'dislike' button because he feared the 'unfortunate consequences'
Doctor Who, Flatline - review: Clara isn’t half bad as the Time Lord
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars memorabilia called a 'bit of plastic' on Antiques Roadshow by Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
Lord Freud hangs on as MPs of all parties 'call for his head' over disability comments