Sunday, 15 November 2020

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
Individual stories first published between 1945 and 1982. Published together as a collection by Penguin Classics on the 29th October 2020.

One of my Classics Club Challenge reads, a More Than One challenge read, and a Book with a Vegetarian Character.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tender and bittersweet, these stories by Truman Capote, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany's, are a captivating tribute to the Christmas season

Selected from across Capote's writing life, they range from nostalgic portraits of childhood to more unsettling works that reveal the darkness beneath the festive glitter. In the Deep South of Capote's youth, a young boy, Buddy, and his beloved maiden 'aunt' Sook forage for pecans and whiskey to bake into fruitcakes, make kites - too broke to buy gifts - and rise before dawn to prepare feasts for a ragged assembly of guests; it is Sook who teaches Buddy the true meaning of good will. In other stories, an unlikely festive miracle, of sorts, occurs at a local drugstore; a lonely woman has a troubling encounter in wintry New York. Brimming with feeling, these sparkling tales convey both the wonder and the chill of Christmas time.

I've only previously read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which very much impressed me, and I wasn't sure if this short story collection, autobiographical though it is, would suit me as well. I need not have been concerned! Capote has such a deft way of capturing the whole sense of a place, a person, and indeed an era with just a few phrases that I was easily transported to 1940s rural Alabama and 1960s New York. Capote's childhood situation was unusual and I loved his portrayal of his small town Alabama life, in particular his relationship with his elderly cousin, Sook, who became his closest friend. Their annual efforts to make Christmas fruitcakes are the subject of the eponymous first story which was so powerful that it almost had me in tears.

Each of the six stories takes place during the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas so the collection is perfect reading for this time of year. I was pleasantly surprised though that the stories don't ever take advantage of that connection to dissolve into saccharine sweetness. Some are nostalgic, another is creepily disturbing, bullying and racism feature prominently, and their characters are generally either in serious poverty or just clinging to respectability. I hadn't given Capote much attention before, but these stories blew me away. I think I definitely need to make an effort to read more of his classics next year.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Truman Capote / Christmas stories / Books from America

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