Entertainment Books

Monday 22 September 2014

The Christmas Tree by Jennifer Johnston

John Spain, Books Editor

Published 21/12/2007 | 00:00

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Tomorrow, the Irish Independent publishes Book 15 in our Irish Women Writers collection, The Christmas Tree by Jennifer Johnston.

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Our collection already has included great novels by Anne Enright (this year's Man Booker winner), Edna O'Brien, Cecelia Ahern, Deirdre Purcell, Martina Devlin, Sinead Moriarty, Rose Doyle, Catherine Dunne, Christine Dwyer Hickey, Clare Boylan, Karen Gillece and Josephine Hart.

The series will resume after the Christmas break on Saturday, January 5. Available at participating newsagents across the country each week, a new book appears every Saturday. The books cost €4.99 each with a token which appears every day on page 2 of the Irish Independent. Back copies are available.

Over the 20 weeks, the books will grow into a collection that will stand the test of time, books to keep and reread over the years to come. See list of titles below.

Book 15: The Christmas Tree

Constance Keating has lived a life of exile, alienated from her family and from Ireland. Now, even though she is still in her 40s, she has returned home to die a premature death.

It's coming up to Christmas. And while she waits for the inevitable, she has time to think. While the process of dying takes place, she replays the fragments of her past. And, as the Christmas tree awaits its day, so she also waits, hoping that the outcome will be on her terms.

Although this sounds like a depressing story, in fact it is anything but. Jennifer Johnston's wonderful writing turns this story about a dying woman's last Christmas into a moving and uplifting experience, full of pathos and beauty.

Most of us are never forced to stop and take stock. And that makes Constance's struggle to make sense of her closing life so compelling. She searches for understanding.

What she find will make readers laugh as well as cry, revealing some important lessons about life.

Born in Dublin in 1930, Jennifer Johnston's first published novel was The Captains and the Kings (1972). Since then, she has published many more, including Shadows on our Skin (1977), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her most recent novel Foolish Mortals, was published in October, 2007.

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