Wednesday 21 February 2018

Nostalgia, magic, warmth and fun, all wrapped in a bundle for a very good cause

Poolbeg, under the guidance of its inspirational publishing director Paula Campbell, does a charity book every Christmas and it's usually the best present under the tree. This year is no exception.

Tinsel, fairylights, mince pies and sleighs full of goodwill abound as 26 of Ireland's best-loved authors come together in the spirit of the season and donate their royalties for this big fat festive book of short stories to Bernardos.

The writers cover every aspect of a contemporary Irish Christmas: the expectant faces of children, the lights, carol singers and jolly Santas at Dublin Airport, nostalgia for Christmasses past, poverty, happy families, lonely people finding friendship, mistletoe and romance and staff parties.

An unemployed architect working as a shop Santa gets a second chance in Shirley Benton's story. Martina Devlin focuses on being skint for Christmas. A dog saves Christmas in Ann Carroll's and there is mystery from Claudia Carroll and A O'Connor.

Emigration and recession are covered by Carol Coffey, Caroline Grace Cassidy and Sarah Harte. There are heartwarming new beginnings from Michelle Jackson, Fiona Cassidy and Claire Allen.

Linda Kavanagh is poignant on loneliness while Helen Moorhouse not surprisingly provides a bittersweet tale of the ghost of Christmas past.

Rosemarie McLoughlin produces a surprise for a TV presenter, Pauline Lawless comes up with a novel idea to help poor children, Kate McCabe deals with abusive partners while Marisa Mackle and Emma Heatherington conjure up nostalgia and romance.

There is plenty of fun, too. Emma Hannigan is hilarious on an adored child who is more naughty than nice, Geraldine O'Neill on embarrassing parents finding new love. Confusion over a charity calendar provides humour from Jacqueline Strawbridge and there's office party comedy from Aine Toner.

Despite the statistical unlikelihood, there's lots of snow, adding a magical winter wonderland backdrop to most of the stories. Snow preventing travel, keeping people apart and bringing them together and making wishes come true, as in Siobhan McKenna's delightful tale of a six-year-old.

Each of the contributors, including Caroline Finnerty, Miranda Manning and Mary Malone, embrace the real meaning of Christmas, making this a great stocking filler and all in a good cause.

Ann Dunne

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