Title: Last Christmas
Author: Greg Wise and Emma Thompson
Published: October 29th 2019
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Non Fiction, Humour, Anthology
Rating: 3.5 stars
Bill Bailey, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Caitlin Moran, Meryl Streep, Emily Watson… Actors, charity workers, singers and refugees share their memories of Christmases past and their hopes for future ones.
The perfect gift book, featuring the writing of Meryl Streep, Bill Bailey, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Caitlin Moran, Richard Ayoade, Emily Watson and others, to coincide with the upcoming movie LAST CHRISTMAS, starring Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding.
When you think back to Christmases past, what (if anything) made it magical? Looking towards the future, what would your perfect Christmas be? What would you change? What should we all change?
This is a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.
Away from the John Lewis advert, the high street decorations and the candied orange in Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding, this gem of a book introduced and curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise celebrates the importance of kindness and generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows us that these values are not just for Christmas.
Curated and introduced by Greg Wise and his wife, Dame Emma Thompson, Last Christmas is a poignant collection of over fifty separate personal bite sized essays, revolving around the theme of Christmas. A companion text to the recent feature film Last Christmas starring Emila Clarke, this touching book would make a great personal gift this yuletide season.
Last Christmas affords readers with an opportunity to reflect on Christmas memories from the past. In this fast moving world of consumerism, often the true meaning of Christmas can get lost in the oblivion of commercialism. This book is about hope, peace, change, acceptance and openness. At times humorous, life affirming and touching, Last Christmas is a sincere piece of literature that opens your eyes to a very different set of Christmas related experiences. Greg Wise and Emma Thompson draw on a diverse set of personal experiences to pull apart of social construction of Christmas. We look beyond the spending sprees, the extravagant Christmas dinners, the endless parties and the over the top decorations. What emerges are a core set of values to consider – hope, kindness and acceptance of all. This thought provoking text is a strong reminder of the principles of humanity that we should follow all year round, not just once a year.
I was immediately struck by the intention of this book, as outlined in the introduction by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson.
‘We were approached by Greg’s publishers, Quercus, to see if we were interested in putting together a book to tie in with the release of our film which could collate people’s personal memories of past Christmases ad their hopes for future ones. And as truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction, the stories that arrived mirrored what we were trying to explore in our film – our suspicion is that this collection of writings more than simply being amusing or touching about Christmas, shows that we are all essentially the same.’
We are also informed at the close of the introduction piece that, ‘All the money earned from this book goes straight to charities helping refugees and the homeless, so an enormous thank you for your purchase.’ I think this adds a sense of purpose and goodwill in selecting this book to purchase.
On a personal note, I have felt a little disillusioned with Christmas of late. I seemed to have lost the belief, sense of wonderment, magic and anticipation of the season. For me, I find that it is just an incredibly busy and stressful time of the year. Marked by celebrations to cater for and presents to purchase. I was not brought up in a religious household, but I lately I have been reassessing my personal mindset in relation to Christmas. Perhaps Last Christmas is a book that found me at the right time, as it provided me with a great deal to think critically about. Reading Last Christmas made me thankful for the life I have built for myself and my young family, which is free from poverty, homelessness, displacement, persecution and addiction, which has impacted so many of the stories in this collection .
There are various voices represented in Last Christmas, of all genders, ages, religious backgrounds, classes, cultural identities and professions. Each story is presented in an accessible and fairly curtailed format, so the reader is easily able to pick this book up and put it down again, without losing the general gist of the book’s purpose. There were plenty of stories from famous personalities that I really looked forward to reading from Emilia Clarke, to Meryl Streep and the curators of the book, Emma Thompson and Greg Wise. However, it was the stories from the everyday people, from all walks of life, that seemed to capture me just as much as the celebrities. One such story of a heart transplant recipient touched me the most, which is due to our own family’s experience of organ donation at Christmas time.
I think I could have used nearly my whole post it note pad to mark out all the key quotes that brought some meaning, or connection to me. I think Last Christmas is a book that speaks for us all, and its intentions are sincere. Expect to be moved to tears in some places, but elated in others. You may also feel a sense of connection and understanding with many of the stories, while others of a more religious or political nature may divide you. Memorable, impassioned and diverse, Last Christmas is a book that will open your mind to a different view of this much celebrated festival.
Last Christmas by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $29.99
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.