Yesterday was a miserable Sunday, which I spent mainly wrapped up in bed worrying about the mouse. That’s right – the nightmare had come true. We had walked into our kitchen in the morning (and note that said kitchen is based on the second floor) only to find a tiny mouse casually sitting by the dishwasher. What was more, it didn’t seem scared of us in the slightest and literally had to be shooed away out of the front door. It doesn’t use the back door, this mouse.
Anyway, that was it. The mouse was gone, but the vision of it haunted me for the rest of the day. I nestled myself in bed, which was conveniently in the part of the flat that was furthest away from the kitchen and picked up a book which had been lying on my bedside table for months, waiting for it to be close enough to Christmas. And Jostein Gaarder’s The Christmas Mystery, rescued me at least temporarily from thoughts of the mouse. It is an absolutely amazing story, and that is said with no hint of exaggeration. It has just the right blend of adventure and wonder, as well as transporting the reader almost literally back in time to the true spirit of Christmas.
The story centres around two characters – one, Elisabeth is a girl who disappeared without a trace fifty years before from her home in Norway, having ran after a lamb. This lamb leads her on a journey across the whole of Europe through to Palestine, and also takes her back in time 2000 years to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. She meets various characters from the nativity scene who join her on her journey and tell her wonderful tales of what has happened.
The second focal character is Joachim who lives in the Norway of the early noughties. He goes out to the shops with his father before Christmas and buys a strange advent calendar, unlike any of the others that are in the shop. Behind each of the windows, he finds a tiny piece of paper, each of which tells him a portion of Elisabeth’s story and also gives insight into the life of the strange man who made the calendar.
The chapters are titled as different days in December which makes this a great read in the run up to Christmas. It really got me feeling like a child again. It also gave me some inspiration for a potential story involving a girl who follows a mouse… but that’s for another time.
Have any of you read The Christmas Mystery or any other of Gaarder’s books? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.