Monday 24 December 2012
Devouring Books: The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder
So I've been reading The Christmas Mystery this month since, guess what, Christmas is TOMORROW! and I have to say it's been a really nice experience. I've had this book for so very long that I can't remember when or how I got it, and apart from a few half-hearted attempts to pick it up maybe a couple of Christmases, this is the first time I've actually read it. It's basically split into 24 chapters, one for each day of December leading up to Christmas, just like an advent calendar, and I believe that you're supposed to read it accordingly- a little bit of a story each day, leading up to Christmas.
So, of course, I started it on the 13th. Because I didn't know this beforehand! But you do now, so pay attention.
Much as the book is like an advent calendar itself, it's also about an advent calendar that has a story contained within it, and then (just one more, I promise) inside that story there's also a teeny advent calendar. This is all par for the Gaarder course, I have to say, but it's not made that much of a big deal of, and honestly, if you don't think about it too much, it won't bug you. Probably. The story that we're reading is about Joachim, the boy to whom the advent calendar belongs, and who eagerly awaits opening it every morning to read the story, which in turn is about this girl who follows a sheep all the way from 1940s Norway to the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. That story is sort of kind of a history of the spreading of Christianity, whereas the original story is more one of the anticipation of Christmas and all the wonderful things there are leading up to it.
I really like it, is what I'm saying. And it's not even that I think the story is that amazing, and I definitely like the one of Joachim and his parents and the acquisition of the advent calendar better than the one inside that, but I like that there are any layers at all, but mostly? I just like the ritual of reading a chapter a day and thinking about what might happen next, just as Joachim does with his story that is also a story that I don't know the end of. Apart from the whole birth of Jesus thing that I totally assume is coming. Obviously.
So, as you may have just guessed, I haven't actually finished this one yet (since I'm writing this on the 23rd and all). But I don't so much think the end is important as the ritual of reading it is- like so many things at Christmas, doing a little bit of it each day builds up the excitement of the story, and makes it feel like a long-standing tradition, even though it isn't. At least not yet. And even though I expect the mystery to be solved tomorrow, and everything to be nicely tied up, in a way, the story doesn't matter so much as the act of reading it. Which is actually something I'm going to miss, almost as much as that teeny piece of chocolate I've been having every morning. Because I have my priorities.
So, if you see a copy of this hanging round anywhere, I can't but recommend buying it and saving it for next Christmas. Because a book that's also an advent calendar and also about an advent calendar? To me, that's like the perfect Christmas book!