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December 24, 2013

On Gnomes and Love: The Best Book Deborah Crombie Ever Received

Posted by emily

Deborah Crombie is the award-winning author of the beloved Kincaid/James series. The latest installment, THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS (which will be available in paperback on February 25th), finds Detective Inspector Gemma James and her team working overtime to find the companion of a well-respected barrister, who was found dead at a seedy hotel. Their search takes them into unexpected corners and forces them to contemplate unsettling truths about the weaknesses and passions that lead to murder. In her Holiday Author Blog, Deborah writes about a topic that is decidedly less grim but no less thrilling: the joy of receiving books for Christmas. The book that is most special to her is the one her now-husband gave her more than 40 years ago --- which was just as much a “keeper” as he turned out to be.

I can’t remember not getting books for Christmas, and I can’t remember that there was ever anything I wanted more than books --- other than my brother’s much-coveted electric train set. No dolls for this girl. (I never did get a train. So unfair…)

I still have my original A.A. Milnes, and my Robert Louis Stevenson's A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES. Then there was BLACK BEAUTY, and Marguerite Henry’s KING OF THE WIND. And LITTLE WOMEN, which led to LITTLE MEN. (I did wonder, many years later, what trouble my parents must have gone to fulfill my bookish wishes. We lived 30 miles from downtown Dallas. There were no suburban bookstores, and no ordering from the Internet! They must have driven to the big downtown bookstore, or perhaps the book department at Neiman Marcus.)

And then, in my teens, lo, there was the hardcover set of The Lord of the Rings trilogy! (Yes, I still have those, too.) But the thing about getting books for Christmas was that, unless the giver was very clever, you could always tell that the wrapped package was, indeed, a book, or even a set of books. For me, I think that just increased the anticipation.

So, down all those years and all those Christmases, how to choose the most memorable book?

One sprang immediately to mind. It was 1972. My then-boyfriend gave me, not cologne, not jewelry, but a book. It was a large, coffee-table size tome, called GNOMES. The text was by scientist Wil Huygen, the beautiful paintings and drawings by Dutch artist Rien Poortvliet. I was already a biology major, and the book detailed the natural history of gnomes (red hats and all!). It was a spoof, a fantasy, clever, fascinating and stunningly beautiful. How did my boyfriend choose something I would adore?

The best part of the story? Although I didn’t get around to marrying the then-boyfriend for another couple of decades, we’re still married. I suppose that long-ago choice of book was a pretty good indication that he was a “keeper.”

And, yes, I still have the book, too.