If you follow my reviews on Goodreads you may wonder why I said it was “great for Christmas journeys at risk of delays, cancellations, snowdrifts and other disasters”. Well, I took this with me on a train journey at the start of December, and it kept me sane, well-balanced and even pretty warm through a two-hour journey that turned into five hours with multiple changes from one train to another. It’s NOT a children’s book, although if you had the audiobook in your car with kids over 12, they’d probably enjoy it, as long as you don’t mind the generous use of the swear word that starts with s and rhymes with hit. It’s ideal for parents of nine-year-olds, spinsters who have lost touch with Santa, and any ageing person that wonders where the magic went. And this isn’t even my review!
I really have to thank Kathy at I Am A Reader for this blog tour and giveaway, since I really enjoyed this book!
Real Santa by William Hazelgrove
George Kronenfeldt is an unemployed engineer with one shot to keep his daughter’s belief in Santa intact. When Megan tells him the only way she will believe in Santa is if she can videotape him and then tells her fourth grade class she will prove the existence of Santa Claus by posting her video to YouTube, George realizes he must become the Real Santa. He devises a plan to land nine reindeer on his roof and go down his chimney, hiring a broken down movie director who eventually has him funding a full-scale production that bankrupts him and threatens his marriage. When George goes to find the Real Santa to help him, the line between what is real and magic is crossed. Real Santa is a funny heartwarming story of parenthood gone wrong and illuminates the lengths parents will go to, to keep their children happy.
George’s world starts to fall apart in the opening scenes of the book, and most of the story is about him trying to come to terms with the changes that happen as you go through life, and realising that he’s made a mess of so many things that he really tried so hard to get right. It may not sound uplifting, but what George has got up to, and gets up to, to prove his point to himself, his family and his extended family, is probably something with which we can all relate. It’s just that most of us would not go to these lengths. Really, it’s amazing what he gets up to, not least the expenditure of vast sums of money (once you get past a certain point, you just have to carry on…) I sympathised with his (second) wife – but I desperately wanted him to succeed.
This is a well-paced (on the whole), well observed, and excruciatingly funny book, which had me laughing out loud in public. The absurdity of the situation, and the inevitability of the spiral he finds himself in, keep you reading to see whether it will … oh yes, it has! It’s compulsive reading, and it’s absolutely perfect for a cynical Christmas person like me.
The references to iconic Christmas events, films and other ‘Santapunk’ require that non-US readers either know the main films listed (I know about half of them and I’ve heard of most of the others), and you can pretty much guess other cultural allusions. The key parts of the story transcend borders and apply across many cultures where parents secretly provide gifts to their kids under the guise of a supernatural gift giver, whether Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, or anyone else. I was delighted by the science and logic arguments for and against the existence of Santa. I once went to an event at London’s Science Museum on the same vein, and I suggested that as the power needed would disturb the earth’s atmosphere, he obviously isn’t at the North Pole, since there is no disturbance there. The South Pole, of course, seems to be affected by an enormous hole in the ozone layer…. If you like those sort of arguments, you’ll like this.
Mr Hazelgrove has mastered the building of tension in what seems on the face of it to be an unlikely plot. The introduction of baddies in various (and sometimes unlikely) forms; the arrival at a few minutes to midnight on Christmas Eve only half way through the book (time dilation at work); multiple perspectives that both entertain and keep you on your (mental) toes; a dysfunctional family where he gradually comes to realise that he has something more he can do, it all adds up to a hugely enjoyable tale that I really hope gets translated to film.
It’s a rip-roaring book suitable for adults, or at least not for anyone who still believes in Santa Claus – but it leaves you wondering. And it gives you hope – you know that however crazy you sometimes think you are, George is much, much worse – and he’s an okay guy, really.
William Elliott Hazelgrove is the best-selling author of eight novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks, Mica Highways, Rocket Man, The Pitcher, Real Santa and the forthcoming Jackpine and The Pitcher 2. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly, Kirkus and have been selected as Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR’s All Things Considered along with features in The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, WGN. His most recent novel, The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection and was chosen Book of the Year by Books and Authors. net.
He runs a political cultural blog, The View From Hemingway’s Attic.
$25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal Cash
Ends 29 December 2014
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