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Christmas Reading Challenge – 10 – A Redbird Christmas – Fannie Flagg

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the 10th review!

Two in one day, you might notice – but as the last one wasn’t quite as full of the Christmas Spirit as we would have liked, I thought this might make up for it…as it’s Christmas and all!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Oswald T. Campbell, an orphan named after a can of soup, who is told by his doctor he has months to live unless he leaves Chicago for warmer climbs.

In what form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

The residents of the town of Lost River, Alabama, especially tame redbird Jack!


OK so I totally cheated. This one, lent to me by N, was supposed to be my last read of the challenge. But I was in such need of Guaranteed Christmas Spirit after the last one that I went for my favourite, Fannie Flagg. She didn’t disappoint.

We’ve talked loads about how much we love Fannie Flagg on previous podcasts, but for those not in the know, this is the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café which was made into the film starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy and is just GORGEOUS. She’s written loads of books written in close knit Southern communities that are incredibly romanticised but I kind of have a love for that sort of Americana, even though I now recognise it as being horribly problematic in terms of white washing a culture.

This one is a short standalone book which follows a series of middle aged folks learning to appreciate life again. Oswald is a good man with problems, who slowly starts to appreciate the wonders of the world through taking the time to learn about it and try out his own talents. Other characters delight with their own stories of Christmas Miracles including learning to love yourself and take pride in your community. Fannie Flagg is very good at structuring packed books that don’t feel cluttered, and creates wonderful little insights into a world of small town living where women form societies for secretly doing good deeds whilst wearing polka dots, and the annual Valentine’s Day Dance is the social event of the season. It made me want to have a pot luck dinner.

This is really really old fashioned, considering it was published in 2004, and some of the language is very un-PC, but if you want pure nostalgia for a time that never really existed, you cannot beat Fannie Flagg.

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

Review 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas

Review 02 – The Christmas Secret

Review 03 – Last Christmas

Review 04 – Lakeshore Christmas

Review 05 – Home for Christmas

Review 06 – Christmas Magic

Review 07 – Claude’s Christmas Adventure

Review 08 – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour 

Review 09 – Christmas for One


Poddy goes Fourth – The sunniest author in the world – Fannie Flagg

* * *PODCAST* * *

Usual language and spoiler warnings apply. Though we do much better on the language front to be honest with you.

In this weeks exciting adventure, we delve into the delightful world of Fannie Flagg, covering the following books:
Fried Green Tomatoes
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl
Standing in the Rainbow
Can’t wait to go to Heaven

I still dream of you

Podcast goes fourth – The sunniest author in the World – Fannie Flagg
Poddy goes fourth



Fannie Flagg, Tearmaker Extrordinaire

Feeling severally hormonal, having previously wept at the picture of the mummy oranutang kissing the baby oranutang better, yesterday was not good day to finish reading Fannie Flagg’s latest book, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven on the train home.

I was inspired to read the book after watching the adaptation of Flagg’s 1987 novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe with N last week. This is a beautiful film, of an even more beautiful book. Flagg’s style is good ol’ fashioned Americana (think Steel Magnolias meets, well Steel Magnolias I guess!), conversational, slightly saga-esque. If she were British, she’s be writing about apple orchards and village greens (very much like the excellent and very readable Apple Tree Lean Down by Mary E Pearce), if she were Irish, she’d be a slightly more flippant Meave Binchey.

I have read four of her books, my favourite being Standing in the Rainbow, a sprawling tale of 50s Missouri, which carries on with the same characters from her earlier book, Welcome to the World Baby Girl (excellent story about the treatment of people of colour in America over the past 50 years, masquerading as a hard-working-girl-discovers-the-best-things-in-life-are-free-er). Set in Elmwood Spring, Missouri, a town which is just about as nostalgically twee as you can get, the book revolves around the family and friends of possibly one of my favourite characters, Neighbour Dorothy, who runs her own radio show from her sitting room. Flagg celebrates the richness of life (horrid cliche) and celebrates how hard-work, and an appreciation for the good times, makes for strong communities and friendships. Although the plot meanders along at no particular rate, a characteristic found in Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, you’d be surprised how affecting the style is, how much you fall in love with the characters (even the annoying ones) and how much you blub yourself silly at the end. Just like Steel Magnolias, in fact! (God that a good film I’ve not seen in a long time, N? Whatdaya say?)

Fried Green Tomatoes is probably her ‘best’ of the books I’ve read. I especially love her character Evelyn dealing with the menopause ‘I’m too old to by young and I’m to young to be old’. Trouble is, I feel that way most of the time and I’m 25. And defiantly not menopausal. I may cry at samsung ads (when the dad is filming his daughter on the beach and gets that look in his eye which you just know means he doesn’t see her as much as he wants…oh God I’m actually welling up as we speak), but its not for want of lady-mones. The film is just plain brilliant, and stars my namesake Jessica Tandy, so next time your having a girly sleepover, rent it. But make sure you have plenty of tissues.

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