Book of the Month: November 2014

9780281071470_walking-backwards-to-christmasWalking Backwards to Christmas by Stephen Cottrell

How do you tell the Christmas stories – so familiar to all of us, and make them fresh?

Stephen Cottrell does it by telling the stories through a number of characters – and not always the obvious characters. As well as one of the shepherds and Joseph, we hear from Herod, the inn keeper’s wife and Isaiah. Neither does he shirk the dark stories; including the harrowing tale of one of the mothers whose 10 month old child is part of Herod’s massacre of the innocents.

The author says he hopes his book “does what good books can do, which is get underneath the skin of a story and begin to tell it in such a way as we can see ourselves in it, aiming to uncover the complex web of motive and response.”

Cottrell has used this format to good effect before in ‘the Nail’, which tells the story of Good Friday through the characters involved in the drama. However here he uses the unusual device of telling the stories in reverse order, beginning with Anna and the presentation in the temple, and finishing with Moses.

This is not an Advent book which offers a reflection a day, but something that can be read in chapters or in one sitting. It is not primarily a group resource, although the author does suggest it would work well for a book club, or could be read by a number of people who might then like to come together to discuss it, and he offers a few suggestions of questions to consider.

I finish with the author’s stated intention “I simply want to tell the story – its light and its darkness – in a way that will enable people to encounter it as if for the first time…It is not your usual Christmas book. But I hope it is one that will stimulate and inspire”. A good aim – and one I think he achieves.  He certainly puts across a sense of excitement in his characters as they realise they are part of a bigger story.

Reviewed by Jenny Monds, Sarum College

Special price of £6.99 in the shop (posted out for free) or £4.99 + postage from www.sarumcollegebookshop.co.uk between 1st and 30th November 2014. RRP £7.99

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