Miracle on Regent Street and five other festive reads

As anyone who has seen Frank Capra’s classic 1946 tearjerker It’s a Wonderful Life, aka THE Christmas movie, will know, Christmas, from a fictional point of view, is a time for redemption, for reminiscence, for finally getting it right. It is also that time of the year when no one, not even a self-confessed literary badass who decided to name her own blog Dark Place just to show how much she enjoys the dark side of fiction, needs to feel ashamed of getting in touch with their softer, more sentimental side. In fact, a certain degree of sappiness is mandatory in order to get through the vast majority of books, movies, and songs dealing with Christmas. Confession time: I adore Christmas. Always have, always will. No sooner have the Christmas lights on Regent Street been lit than I start lighting candles like a maniac, playing Phil Spector’s Christmas album on repeat, drinking glögg, munching gingerbread (when I found out that our new house, which we moved into last Christmas, is virtually next door to one of Sweden’s biggest gingerbread manufacturers, I was not surprised...), preparing Christmas wish lists and throwing myself into the festive spirit.

For me, this festive spirit means saying sod off to the kind of stuff I relish eleven months of the year. Begone, dark, edgy thrillers! Sayonara, ghost stories and all things horror! Come January, I will take you all in my (unusually plump) arms and tell you how much I have missed you, but right now, it’s all about Christmas. Which means throwing my usual contempt for sappiness out the window.

Miracle on Regent Street The Gift, Cecelia Ahern

What better, then, than to immerse oneself in Christmas spirit in literary form? Every year, a multitude of new works of fiction deals with Christmas in one way or another. I shall from now on refer to such books as Christmas lit. Ali Harris has written one of the best efforts this year, I’d say. Her debut novel Miracle on Regent Street is the story of Evie, who has spent the past two years toiling away in the stock room of Hardy’s, a once grand, now half-forgotten department store in central London. Despite doing a stellar job and being truly passionate about Hardy’s, she never seems to get promoted to the shop floor. On top of that, all her colleagues insist on calling her Sarah, which was the former stock room girl’s name. When Evie finds out just how much trouble Hardy’s is in, she decides to do everything she can in order to rescue the department store. Is it too late for a Christmas miracle...?

Miracle on Regent Street is as instantly comforting and addictive as a particularly sweet and frothy gingerbread latte. For most of the year, you prefer your usual strong, black coffee, but ‘tis the season, after all, and if you have a soft spot for warm-hearted, albeit slightly predictable, romantic comedy in a festive setting, look no further. Ali Harris clearly knows how to write, and lines like “Tamsin is pure Essex thoroughbred, complete with fake nails, fake tan, dyed platinum hair and suspiciously perky-looking boobs” ensure several laugh-out-loud moments and make Harris stick out amongst the plethora of - let’s face it - mainly bland and pointless chick lit authors out there today. I came across a blurb where Miracle on Regent Street was compared to Cecelia Ahern’s oeuvre. To that, may I just say “HUMBUG!”. Harris is a much more gifted writer than the lacklustre Ahern, whose 2009 holiday release The Gift was so sugary sweet, even this Christmas maniac came dangerously close to developing diabetes.

Oh, and London in full-on holiday glam has never seemed as irresistible as in Miracle on Regent Street (well, perhaps in Love Actually, then...). In fact, I almost had to handcuff myself to keep myself from logging onto the nearest airline company website and order a one way ticket to London!

In the mood for more festive reads? Read on for more Helena approved Christmas lit! If your name happens to be the Grinch, please stop reading now, for everyone’s safety (including your own).

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Truly a must, not only for Christmas lovers but for book lovers, full stop. If you happen to be in Stockholm this Christmas, don’t miss the brilliant stage adaption, which will be performed in English at Maximteatern every evening until 23 December!

Comfort and Joy by India Knight

2. Comfort and Joy by India Knight

I just devoured this last year. If you like your chick lit to come with a slight hint of darkness, this is it. India Knight’s novel takes place over several Christmases, has great, believable characters and an addictive plot. Good stuff.

Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah

3. Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah

If, on the other hand, you want to read about The Healing Powers of Christmas - insert Hollywood type speaker voice here - and do not fear a certain amount of cheesiness, this could be a good match for you. Bear in mind, though: when I read this, I was pregnant with twins and overflowing with hormones and STILL found it all a bit too much. Still, there is always something deeply comforting about reading a Kristin Hannah novel. Very cathartic, I find.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

4. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

This fun little read about a middle-aged couple who decide to skip Christmas altogether but soon discover that giving up on Christmas is more difficult that you might imagine has become something of a modern Christmas classic. It bears absolutely no comparison to the legal thrillers that Grisham normally tends to write.

Christmas, Present y Jacquelyn Mitchard

5. Christmas, Present y Jacquelyn Mitchard

Feel like a good cry? Then by all means try to find a copy of Mitchard’s tearjerker. I challenge you not to weep!