The Christmas Mystery

Jostein Gaarder, Author, Elizabeth Rakkan, Translator, Elizabeth Rokkan, Translator Hill & Wang $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-12329-1
Even grownups enjoy a bedtime story every now and then, especially one that combines, as does this one, the sophistication of a novel with the whimsy of a fairy tale. Gaarder, the Norwegian former professor of philosophy who brought us The Solitaire Mystery (1996) and the bestselling Sophie's World (1995), is up to his usual tricks here, serving up a metaphysical brainteaser that unfolds into a warm--but not preachy--meditation on God and the Christian doctrines. Set in an unnamed town in present-day Norway, it tells the story of Joachim, a young boy who finds a faded, handmade Advent calendar in a bookstore on the eve of December first, and begs his father to let him take it home. The next morning, when he opens the calendar's first door, Joachim discovers not just the expected picture but also a tightly folded piece of paper, the first installment of the fantastic tale of a little girl's journey through time and space to be present at the Nativity. Soon the girl's story is making unexpected intrusions into Joachim's own life, and he races to solve the mystery of the calendar before Christmas Eve. First published in Norway in 1992, this work is less structurally sophisticated than Gaarder's later ones, and some will be dismayed by a repeated pro-Palestine, anti-Israel theme that undercuts the novel's larger message of universal tolerance and harmony. But in the end it is Gaarder's frank, friendly voice and the adorable character he has created in the inquisitive, enthusiastic Joachim that stay in the reader's mind. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 222 pages - 978-1-55921-395-0
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-14-086546-2
Open Ebook - 250 pages - 978-1-4668-0456-2
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