The Character I Would Invite To Christmas Dinner
This year, we've asked each member of the Scottish Book Trust team to come up with the fictional character from a book that they would most like to spend a Christmas dinner with, as well as choose the gift that they would give them. Here are our choices – who would be yours?
From: A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Invited by: Clare Rodgers
I'd like to have Paddington round for lunch because he says things as he sees them. Also, he would be bound to cause some sort of hilarity on the day itself – accidentally stuffing the turkey with his hat rather than sage and onion, for example...
Gift: A jar of homemade marmalade with a shot of single malt for an extra kick to those sandwiches!
George Henry Kranky
From: George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
Invited by: Chris Newton
I’d love to have George over for Christmas dinner. Instead of cooking sprouts we could spend the morning flinging ingredients into a pot making some marvellous medicine. Imagine how fun it would be to see anyone (well anyone apart from my Gran) shoot through the roof or for someone’s legs to extend or for them to shrink. Much funnier than Christmas-cracker jokes.
Gift: one tin of brown gloss paint, batch two will need some colour.
From: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
Invited by: Chris Leslie
Masuji Ono, a famous painter whose reputation crumbles in post-war Japan after his involvement in right-wing political repression is revealed, is my choice. I liked being inside his head as he struggles to weigh up his actions as an old man. His actions are committed against a backdrop of hysteria and coercion, and I think I would learn something about myself by putting myself in his position and finding out about the pressure surrounding him.
Gift: A bottle of sake and a diary, to help him face up to his thoughts about his past.
Gotrek Gurnisson and Felix Jaeger
From: The Gotrek and Felix novels by William King (and later Nathan Long)
Invited by: Michael Merillo
Gotrek Gurnisson is a Dwarfen Slayer sworn to find a glorious death in battle to atone for a grievous past sin, and his reluctant chronicler and part-time insurrectionist is the poet Felix Jaeger. The pair would no doubt be nothing but trouble - dour Gotrek grumbling about not having anything to slay, and Felix fretting that Gotrek will find something to slay. But trouble aside, I think it would be a fantastic evening of storytelling!
Gift: I would get Gotrek some bright orange hair dye and hurricane strength hair gel, to keep his awesome mohawk standing tall when he finally meets his Doom. And for Felix, I think a nice thick journal and stout pen would do. He’s got to keep up with chronicling, because epic poems don’t write themselves, you know.
Calvin and Hobbes
From: the Calvin and Hobbes books by Bill Watterson
Invited by: Julia Collins
The first character I thought of inviting was Jane Eyre. What better way to spend Christmas dinner than discussing the virtues and vices of Edward Rochester? However my obsession with her husband would probably be enough to send Jane fleeing to the moors again, so instead I have chosen to invite Calvin and Hobbes. I don’t think these guys would eat much Christmas dinner and it will involve a LOT of tidying up afterwards, but it would be a day of nonstop fun and chaos... and some amazing snow sculptures.
Gift: I think I would have to give some sort of power tool. Perhaps a chainsaw.
From: The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Invited by: Helen Croney
Aslan is (according to C.S. Lewis) a cuddly, furry version of Jesus Christ. While not being particularly religious myself, who wouldn’t want to share their deep fried Christmas pud and squirty cream with the ultimate wise, compassionate and benevolent being?
Aslan also happens to be the King of Narnia and (I won’t lie) that is the main reason I chose him. Narnia is a place that I would like to reign supreme over, and I believe that Aslan might be able to arrange this for me.
Gift: I would sweeten the deal by presenting him with a Christmas gift of a sunshine break to Ibiza, to help him recover from the Endless Winter and to have a little fun away from the stresses of running a volatile fantasy land. I’d then leave all the washing up, get inside my wardrobe and wait to see if it worked.
From: Skellig by David Almond
Invited by: Koren Calder
I would ask Skellig what it is like to have wings, and how and why his shrivelled up, and if this is something that all angels go through or if he is an exception? I would feed him Chinese food (specifically menu order numbers 27 and 53) and brown ale, as this is what he enjoys in the story – I don’t think I could bring myself to serve him mice though as I don’t want to offend my other guests!
From: World renowned private detective stories created by Agatha Christie
Invited by: Beth Bottery
Better than any murder mystery dinner party, I want the real thing for my Christmas dinner. A carefully selected guestlist of all my enemies plus the brilliant Belgian - and his little grey cells - would make for a thrilling Christmas dinner. My canapés would be served with murder most foul. Poirot would question us as we eye each other with suspicion over a roast goose before enjoying his earth-shattering denouement accompanied by crème de menthe and petit fours! While the culprit was dragged off Poirot and I would sit back and reflect with an elegant glass of hot chocolate, and I could give him my Christmas present...
Gift: Trivial Pursuit - to stretch his little grey cells to their limit!
The Incredible Book Eating Boy
From: The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
Invited by: Tracy Lowe
Without a doubt, The Incredible Book Eating Boy would be the easiest dinner guest to accommodate. There wouldn’t be any worrying about what he would eat. If he didn’t like his picture book starter, I’d walk over to the bookshelf and tempt him with a classic. For his main course, I would choose something hearty like a non-fiction book. If he didn’t enjoy that then I’d tempt him with an old leather-bound book (though if you ask me, it might be a bit too chewy). Dinner would end on a sweet, light-hearted note, maybe poetry. The Incredible Book Eating Boy is the perfect dinner guest – interesting and full of knowledge. And best of all, the washing up would be minimal.
Gift: All those books!
From: Nail Gaiman’s epic Sandman comic series
Invited by: Philippa Cochrane
Although Death is humane and funny and far more down to earth than her morose brother Dream, that’s not why I’d invite her. I would invite Death because I think she would totally get the Christmassyness of it all – pull the crackers, wear the paper crown and enjoy telling rubbish jokes. And what a great person to have round for a game of Charades!
Gift: I would give her this Mary Poppins Snow globe (pictured right) because I think she would like it and it has echoes of her first appearance in Sandman – “The Sound of her Wings”.
From: Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne
Invited by: Heather Collins
Inviting an 11 year old to Christmas dinner may seem like an odd choice, but anyone who has read the book will know Albert is pretty special and definitely wise beyond his years. He made me laugh out loud many times so it certainly wouldn’t be a dull event.
I’d enjoy listening to him telling me about life in the commune and all about his firm belief that the end of the world is imminent. Any child about to suffer the end of the world deserves a slap-up final meal so I’d go all out.
Gift: I’d send him off with the perfect prezzie – a build-your-own air raid shelter and a big box of canned food. I think he’d enjoy roping his dad in to his preparations for the end and I’d enjoy knowing that Albert and Don were off spending quality time together.
From: the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
Invited by: Cassandra Connolly-Brown
As Temeraire is a rather large dragon, dinner would have to be eaten outside but, provided we had enough heaters, this could be a nice change. Temeraire is a fascinating mix of intelligence and innocence and he is highly opinionated. This could make for some loud and interesting debating; something my family loves to do. After dinner, if he was amenable, we could go for a fly instead of our usual walk.
Gift: I would give him a Kindle, already filled with books on Chinese poetry and higher maths.
J. Alfred Prufrock
From: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
Invited by: Sophie Moxon
I find Christmas very melancholic. There’s great emphasis on togetherness yet so many people are alone, or with people who make them feel lonelier than if they were by themselves. This Christmas I want to reach out so I’m going to invite the most isolated character in literature, J. Alfred Prufrock.
At first his manner will be somewhat diffident but conversation will soon flow. He’ll tell me what the mermaids sound like and I’ll describe the taste of a peach. We’ll understand exactly what each other mean.
Gift: After pudding I’ll present him with his gift, a stylish trilby hat. It will be perfect. Merry Christmas, Alfred.
From: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Invited by: Colm Linnane
For a variety of reasons, my family dinners are frequently quite rambunctious affairs with quite a bit of chat and I think Zaphod’s breezy obnoxiousness would liven proceedings up a bit (and give my siblings someone other than me to bait over the trifle). I also think Zaphod probably wouldn’t be short of invites for post-dinner parties and I can imagine him whisking me off to an amazing intergalactic Christmas party where we’d work off our turkey with a few Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters in the company of some of the hippest, grooviest cats this side of the Marshes of Falia.
Gift: A bottle of nice malt and a copy of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan which may convince him that his Infinite Improbability Drive is actually an Infinite Inevitability Drive!
Jacob de Zoet
From: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Invited by: Paul Gallagher
Having recently become a father, I’m feeling more keenly than ever the desire to live rightly; to be a man my son can be proud of calling dad. In this respect I think Mr de Zoet – Head Clerk of the Dutch East Indies Trading Company in Japan at the end of the 18th Century – would have much wisdom and insight to impart over a post-Christmas dinner sherry. Once I’d plied him with a king-size tin of Roses and an endless supply of chocolate Santas from the tree, I’d prod Jacob to explain the secret to remaining a person of principle, guided by love and solid faith, and refusing to compromise one’s personal integrity, even in the face of fearsome adverseries. He would of course deny that he could tell me anything useful about those things, but such humility would only further exemplify his greatness. It would be an afternoon well spent.
Gift: A chillout mixtape, for whiling away those lonely Dejima nights.
From: the Inspector Rebus series by Ian Rankin
Invited by: Jackie Hadden
I would invite Rebus as he would be an intriguing addition to the table. His insight into the Jambos' fate always makes me laugh, considering he is a Hibees fan (well, we all have our faults).
Gift: A litre bottle of his favourite tipple, whisky, with a note to keep some for New Year's Day to help him drown his sorrows, when once again his beloved team takes a beating.
From: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Invited by: Caitrin Armstrong
I’m going with Miss Havisham on the basis that no-one is more entertaining than a mad old posh woman. Perhaps more importantly, her attention-seeking, manipulative behaviour might create a distraction from the usual family arguments, uniting us against her. Instead of the usual row with my other half on the way home, we could regale each other with hilarious stories about Miss Havisham’s complaints about the sprouts and unfair criticism of my dad’s cooking of the turkey.
Gift: Life Laundry (on VHS as suspect she might be a late adopter of new technology). For those unfamiliar with Life Laundry, it was a fascinating BBC reality TV show about hoarders which ran from 2002-2004. It would show Miss Havisham that a little cleaning and de-cluttering could provide her with a happy home environment, enhancing her life and helping her to move on from past trauma. I think Miss Havisham would enjoy Christmas with my family, and if nothing else, it would get her out the house.
From: Westwood by Stella Gibbons
Invited by: Jeanette Harris
Margaret is a young, middle class woman living in London during World War II. She teaches in a girls' school, has few friends and an unhappy home life with a domineering mother who tells here she’s “not the type to attract men”. She idolises a charismatic, womanising playwright and when she finds a way into his home through a friend, becomes increasingly obsessed with and subservient to Gerard Challis and his whole family. Poor Margaret is weak, naive, and probably typical of many young women of that era.
So I would like to invite her to Christmas lunch in the 21st Century, to meet a different kind of family, including three young, confident, non-subservient women and three young men who like being in the kitchen, all six of whom treat one another as equals. Apart from having some fun on Christmas Day, perhaps Margaret would begin to believe that she could find happiness in life.
Gift: a year’s subscription to an internet dating site.
From: The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi
Invited by: Jasmine Fassl
Rather than inviting Frankie round to my house, I’d spend Christmas at the Parsons’ family home; ideally with Frankie, his mum (who can’t leave the house), Uncle George (who is Frankie’s dad, but everybody calls him Uncle George), brother, his sister, his best friend Gigs and of course the fat Aunties (they come for dinner once a week anyway, so why not invite them for Christmas?). Frankie is a 12 year old boy who worries about everything. Gigs, on the other hand, worries about nothing. He is a wonderful character, as are all the others mentioned above, and if you don’t know the book yet, I urge you to read it. It’s a rare gem by New Zealand previous Children’s Laureate Kate Di Goldi and suitable for 12+, but has huge crossover appeal.
Gift: I’d give Frankie a jar full of change for the bus but disguise it so nobody in the family would know what was in it (two less things to worry about for Frankie).
From: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
Invited by: Kate Caldwell
My ideal guest for Christmas dinner would have to be Penelope, and because Charlotte, Harry and Inigo would probably come too, and because my flat is too small, we would have to have dinner at her crumbling stately pile, Milton Magna. We’d drink red wine and dance around the kitchen table listening to...
Gift: A mix tape including Elvis, Johnnie Ray and a surprise recording of White Christmas by Penelope's brother.
Holiday (Holly) Golightly
From: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Invited by: Catriona Wallace
Sometimes you need a bit of a shake up at Christmas. That’s why I’d like to invite Truman Capote’s fun and flighty Holly Golightly to dinner this year. She’d add a touch of sparkle to the conversation and I’m certain that she’d be up for a riotous game of Pit*. Being quite the socialite, I’d have no fears about leaving Holly in the company of my Great Aunt. In fact I think they’d get on famously.
But deep down I’d know that despite her name, life hasn’t always been a holiday for our glamourous guest. Holly would be quite a different breed of teenager to anything my parents ever had to live with. While my siblings were typically sullen at worst and daft at best, there was never any need to retrieve them from the midst of a mob-backed racket. I think that more than anything, Holly could do with a healthy dose of a very homely Christmas.
And of course, we wouldn’t be surprised when at the end of the day she left without a trace.
Gift: There certainly wouldn’t be any lavish Tiffany gifts, exquisite birdcages or the like, but I reckon we could stretch to some Elizabeth Duke vouchers.
*An unexpectedly exciting commodity-trading card game.
From: Vanity Fair by W M Thackeray
Invited by: Marc Lambert
If, like me, you’ve always known that naughty boys and girls have the most fun, then you’ll understand why I’d invite Becky for dinner. The anti-heroine of Thackeray’s masterpiece, she’s an extraordinary character with bags of charm. She’s also dangerous... a gifted dissembler, mimic, manipulator, and not to be trusted with anything. An orphan of very dubious background, she rises to the top of high society on her wits alone, while ripping off the men she’s hypnotised with an almost pathological abandon, and a great deal of success. If all this makes her seem repellent, then I can only suggest you read the book. Because Becky is, by far, the most intelligent, funny, charming and alive person in it, a brilliantly observed foil to the dunces who inhabit Thackeray’s Fair of Vanities, and one of the greatest female creations in all of literature.
Gift: A very rich husband.
From: the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling
Invited by: Claire Stewart
I’d like to have Minerva McGonagall over for Christmas dinner. Of all the prominent characters in the Harry Potter novels, she is the most mysterious, unlike Dumbledore, Snape and several of the older characters, not much is ever revealed about her background, childhood and private life. Also, she always seemed to spend Christmas at Hogwarts... After dinner, I would ply her with a few dry sherries and ask her to spill the beans; surely she must have had a love interest or two? How did she end up a teacher? And she must have had some adventures whilst transformed into a cat…
Gift: a nice scarf from Liberty’s.
From: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Invited by: Marion Bourbouze
My Christmas dinner would not be traditional – there wouldn’t be a whiff of turkey or Christmas pudding (for the Brits), or even oysters and chocolate log (for the French). There would have to be funny and interesting people and I think Renee would fit the bill perfectly. This seemingly illiterate concierge, who secretly adores Japanese films and is so passionate about Tolstoy she named her cat Leo, is witty and anti-conformist and would no doubt lighten up the mood at any dinner party. She could also spill the beans on her bourgeois neighbours – an added bonus!
Gift: a pair of brand new slippers – the ideal camouflage to look like an ordinary concierge