11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
very charming and original ; beautifully illustrated ;a special book,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Lion, The Unicorn and Me (Hardcover)
This book was very well reviewed when it appeared for Christmas 2009 but it seems to have gone out of print very quickly, and currently it still remains out of print. We had to pay a lot for our copy (in fact we bought the limited signed edition, which was only slightly dearer than the standard one), but it is an exceptional book and worth it - though I would not be at all surprised if it appears again near Christmas of this year. It tells the story of the first Christmas from the point of view of the donkey. It is absolutely not sentimental, but it is very touching and charming, and the excellent illustrations by Rosalind MacCurrach work with the tale and enhance it. The donkey is chosen over the lion and the unicorn to be present in the stable because 'if He is to bear the burdens of the world, He had better be carried by me', rather as in Chesterton's famous poem ('There was a shout about my ears/And palms before my feet'). It is the donkey's humble ordinariness that makes him both not 'special' and absolutely the right choice.
This is a well-worn theme, but Winterson really does make something new and original of it. It is partly to do with how she structures the story and partly because of her use of words. Bethlehem at census time, for example, is so busy that 'even the mice were renting their mouse-holes, and there were travellers hanging out of birds' nests, their beards full of twigs and old worms, and the anthills were full up, and the bee-hives had three families apiece and there was a man tapping on the frozen lake asking the fish to let him in'. It reads out loud very well and young children love it. Finally, Winterson does infuse her book with a genuine and not at all 'preachy' spirituality which seems absolutely right here.
In conclusion, it's a lovely book, and rather special. It deserves to be widely bought and read, and I hope that it will eventually become more readily available again.
P.S. (January 2013) .... which it now is. I've also recently read Jeanette Winterson's autobiography 'Why be happy when you can be normal?', in which she explains the circumstances in which this wonderful children's book was written, in five hours by night when the author was in the depths of despair - remarkable!