Tag Archives: Nancy Mitford

What Happens When You Move & Don’t Update Publishers With Your New Address?

Well, you go and visit the lovely family members you were staying with after a few weeks of being in your own little new world and find they have had an avalanche of parcels for you, which you then have to lug all the way back to your new abode. Let me illustrate that for you…

Oh and…

I stopped doing ‘incoming posts’ but know some of you like them so see this is a random special return. (I’m not going to list all the books just some highlights, you can click on the pics for a bigger image I think.)

There was some delightful parcel opening once I had dragged several ‘bags for life’ (and really tested them to see if they live up to their name) brimming with parcels home, as some of the finds were wonderful. In general these were unsolicited copies, but I had asked for a few. Maura at Riot PR had sent some of the Waterstones 11, so I think I have almost all of those now, as I don’t have relationships with all of the publishers on the list. I have been very excited about them all but both ‘Care of Wooden Floors’ by Will Wiles and ‘The Lifeboat’ by Charlotte Rogan in particular, but didn’t think those two would be appearing via my postman, I was wrong as I had a copy from Little Brown, so I might give one away when the book comes out. ‘The Art of Fielding’ by Chad Harbach I asked for with the clause that I would try it but I might not finish it, I am being honest, and so I will at some point.

I am beyond excited about Peter Ackroyd’s biography on ‘Wilkie Collins’ and the new short story collection ‘Guilt’ by Ferdinand Von Schirach as I greatly admired ‘Crime’ when I read it last year. I think William Boyd’s new book, which Alice at Bloomsbury had signed for me as I couldn’t make the Bloomsbury Blogger event, ‘Waiting For Sunrise’ might be the next from these piles I read, though it is getting a lot of mentions on blogs, we will see. It could have some stiff competition from ‘Love From Nancy’ (which is more Nancy Mitford letters than I could dream of) as to who makes it from the TBR to the bedside table, we will see.

Pretty much all the other books came unsolicited as I mentioned but there are some titles there that I am intrigued by, I will have a proper sift over this weekend, and so am pleased arrived. I have yet to read Peter Carey, ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ just looks so looooong, but ‘Chemistry of Tears’ looks shorter and sounds very interesting so I will give this major Man Booker winner a whirl finally. I am also thrilled with two of the recovered (in a team up with the V&A) and soon to be reissued Vintage Classics which turned up, ‘The Sea, The Sea’ by Iris Murdoch and ‘The French Lieutenants Woman’ by  John Fowles. They are authors I have read one book by before and then I said I will return to and then haven’t. Both look very good, and I fancy some more chunksters this year, and I had no idea ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ was neo-Victorian until recently so I am definitely going to give that a whirl soon.

What books have you bought/been sent/been given lately? Which of these would you like to see me give a whirl on a whim? What are you reading now?

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The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street: Letters Between Nancy Mitford and Heywood Hill 1952-73 edited by John Saumarez Smith

There is nothing worse than a book funk, those dreaded times where no matter what you might have on your bookshelves/at the library/in the local charity shop nothing, but nothing, seems to tempt you. Thank goodness then for friends’ bookshelves, as spotting ‘The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street’ the other day I begged and pleaded to borrow a copy, now they might be begging and pleading for it back. I mean seriously, how could a book combining Nancy Mitford, books and bookshops go wrong?

Francis Lincoln Publishers, paperback, 2005, non fiction, 192 pages, kindly lent by a friend

I have to say initially ‘The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street’ made me feel like a bit of a Mitford ignoramus. How did I have no idea that Nancy Mitford had owned part of a bookshop when I am such a fan? I had a good think about it and a vague memory came to me from ‘Letters Between Six Sisters’ that she does actually mention working in one. 10 Curzon Street was that bookshop and though she owned it in some part for some time and it became known as ‘Nancy Mitford’s Bookshop’ the owner was actually Heywood Hill (which sounds like a place but is in fact a man). This book is a collection of edited snippets of their correspondence through two decades, an utter joy for a Mitford fan like me.

Being a writer, a lover of literature and having worked in a bookshop Nancy Mitford makes an interesting correspondent to start with. Throw in her wit and the fact that she mingled in some of the most interesting society in London and Paris as a Mitford sister and you have insight into so many worlds, written in such a way that you cannot help be fascinated whilst smiling wryly. Who else read and yet knew Evelyn Waugh, and many other authors of the times, so well? Apparently Heywood Hill as it goes, close friend of Nancy and the likes of Ivy Compton Burnett, and so the sparing of these two literary lovers, who also happen to be at the heart of the literary world at the time, is any book lovers dream.

‘It’s like with Mr Maugham who calls me Nancy and I always feel I can’t get out Willie… Oh for an amusing novel – no not Henry Green, not yet at least. How I wish I could get on with Miss Compton Burnett but it’s my blind spot. So I plod on with St. Simon, such a nice readable edition, Racine, which, on account of the notes, is as good as Punch.’

My one slight issue with the book is that whilst it is called ‘letters between’ it’s actually very much ‘edits of letters between – with notes’. None of the full letters actually appear in the book, it’s very much just tasters of the best bits. The positive of this of course is that we get the highlights, yet unlike having read so many of her full letters Nancy Mitford could describe walking to the shop or some other every day event in an immensely readable and funny way, it seemed a shame these day to day comments were cut. It also annoyed me and yet intrigued me to read John Saumarez Smith’s notes and the regular mention of a collection of Mitford’s letters called ‘Love from Nancy’ when he didn’t include them, I wanted to read them there and then but alas don’t own them, which of course needs to be rectified. I liked the highlights as I said, yet I wanted more and not just simply the snippets we get. You read a bit and want the rest.

‘…I would like a book plate, simply Nancy Mitford like the Baskerville Bible title pages, lots of squiggles. Could you ponder…?’
‘…Oh isn’t it lovely [the bookplate]… Can we start with 500 or do I have to stoke up for life? Goodness what a sticking and licking there’ll be – yes please, gum…’

That aside I think John Saumarez Smith does a good job with editing this collection of letters. He explains the background behind Nancy and Heywood’s interesting relationship as business partners (‘do let’s divorce’ Nancy wrote at one time) and thanks to a great introduction, best read after you have finished the book as always I think, plus footnotes and commentary between some of the letters to explain what was going on in Nancy or Heywood’s life, we get more insight into the underlying tones of the words and where some of the in jokes, which are never too exclusive, are directed.

I came away feeling I knew Nancy Mitford all the more, well as much as anyone can ever know one of their sadly deceased icons, through these letters of a friendship that lasted decades. Best of all there were times when certain things she wrote particularly struck a chord with me and that can be a rarity and feels all the more special in the instances where it happens.

‘You know my flat and now there’s not room for another bookcase. Every month I give at least 20 books to “the students” who come for them with a sack – many French writers now send me their books, with fulsome dedicaces all of which go in the sack! Unread of course…’

I really, really, really enjoyed ‘The Bookshop at 10 Curzon Street’, being a fan of all things Mitford it bowled me over far more than Helene Hanff’s ’84 Charing Cross Road’ which I enjoyed but actually now think is slightly inferior to this collection of letters (though that is more personal taste and love of Nancy) and deserves to be as well read frankly. If you are a lover of the Mitford’s, and Nancy in particular, then you simply must read this book. I would also strongly suggest any lover of books to give this one a whirl; though maybe try a Mitford novel first for a flavour of the style of wit you are getting, as she might not be for everyone. I really must order ‘The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh’ back out from the library pronto.

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Filed under Books About Books, Books of 2012, Francis Lincoln Publishers, Heywood Hill, John Saumarez Smith, Nancy Mitford

Savidge Reads Books of 2011 – Part I

I always struggle with this every year, which books will go into my top books of 2011 and why? I am following the form of the last few years and giving you my top ten books actually published in 2011 and, in this first post, the top ten books I have read this year which were published prior to 2011. I was going to try and rewrite the reviews in a succinct paragraph but in the end have decided to take a quote from the review and if you want to read more pop on the books title and you will find yourself at the full book post. So without further ado here are the first ten…

My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier

“…the psychological intensity du Maurier weaves through the pages along with the constant sense that she could pull the rug from under you at any given moment is incredible. Before Rachel even appears herself, around 80 pages in, she is quite the presence and the reader has quite possibly made up their mind about her through Philip’s utter jealously and then suspicion of this woman. Daphne then brings in a character quite unlike the one we would imagine. It is this game of Rachel being a misunderstood sweet if tragic innocent or magnificently manipulative calculating monster that makes you turn the page, are you right about her or utterly wrong?”

Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood

“I myself was bullied at school, I think most kids are at some point, so maybe that’s why this rang so true with me, but I simply couldn’t shake the feeling of it and it really, really got to me. To me, though rather uncomfortable, that is the sign of a wonderful book and a wonderful writer. Through Elaine’s often distant and removed narrative I was projecting my own experiences and emotions and it, along with Atwood’s creation of course, drove ‘Cat’s Eye’ and hit home. I can feel the emotions again just writing about the book, it’s the strangest and most emotive reading experience I have had in a long time, possibly ever.”

Moon Tiger – Penelope Lively

“The other thing, apart from the clever way it is told and the great story I cant say too much about, that I loved about ‘Moon Tiger’ was Claudia herself, even though in all honesty she is not the nicest woman in the world. I found her relationship between Claudia and her daughter a difficult and occasionally heartbreaking one. (‘She will magic Claudia away like the smoke.’) She gripes about her life, she has incredibly loose morals (there is a rather shocking twist in the novel that I didn’t expect and made me queasy), isn’t really that nice about anyone and yet I loved listening to her talk about her life. I think it was her honesty. I wanted to hear and know more, even when she was at her wickedest.”

Love in a Cold Climate – Nancy Mitford

“What I love about all of Nancy’s writing (and I have also been reading the letters between her and Evelyn Waugh alongside) is her sense of humour. Some may find the setting rather twee or even irritating as she describes the naivety of the children, which soon becomes hilarious cheek and gossip, and the pompous nature of the adults in the society that Fanny and Polly frequent, I myself haven’t laughed so much at a book in quite some time.”

Up At The Villa – W. Somerset Maugham

“…a perfect book when you want something slightly familiar and yet something that completely throws you. There is a comfort in Maugham’s writing that is rather like finding a wonderful black and white film on the telly on a rainy afternoon. That probably sounds ridiculous, or a big cliché, but it sums up my experience of this book the best way I can. You can’t help but lose yourself in it and find you are left wanting to turn to the next one as soon as you can.”

Hallucinating Foucault – Patricia Duncker

“From the opening pages Duncker pulls you into a tale that at first seems like it could be one sort of book and then becomes several books rolled into one whilst remaining incredibly readable. She also shows how many tools a writer has, the book is written in first ‘unnamed’ narrative for the main but also features dream sequences, letters from Michel to Foucault and newspaper clippings and reports. It’s like she is celebrating language and its uses.”

Blaming – Elizabeth Taylor

“Her writing is beautiful yet sparse, no words are used that needn’t be. Initially though there doesn’t appear to be a huge plot there is so much going on. We observe people and what they do and how they react to circumstances learning how there is much more to every action, and indeed every page, than meets the eye. along the lines of Jennifer Johnston and Anita Brookner, whose books I have enjoyed as much, Taylor is an author who watches the world and then writes about it with a subtly and emotion that seems to capture the human condition.”

The Queen of Whale Cay – Kate Summerscale

“It is not only the life of Joe that is so fascinating, the fraught relationships with her parents, the sham marriage for inheritance, her role driving ambulances in the war (her I wondered if she was the inspiration for Sarah Waters ‘The Night Watch’), the endless affairs including with some very famous women, the obsession with a small doll called Lord Tod Wadley (who even had his named engraved on the front door so people would actually call for him), the buying of an island ‘Whale Cay’ and it ruling… I could go on and on.”

84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

“As Hanff and Doel’s friendship blossoms she starts to send packages of food to him and the other workers in the store during the war, getting friends to visit with nylons etc, thus she creates further friendships all by the power of the pen. Initially (and I wondered if Frank himself might have felt this) Hanff’s lust for life, over familiarity and demanding directness almost pushed me to annoyance until her humour and her passion for books becomes more and more apparent along with her thoughtfulness during the war years as mentioned. I was soon wishing I had become Hanff’s correspondent myself.

The News Where You Are – Catherine O’Flynn

“It would be easiest to describe ‘The News Where You Are’ as a tale of a local tv news reader, who is obsessed with the past and lonely people being forgotten, trying to discover the mystery behind his predecessor, and now friend’s, hit and run whilst also trying to deal with his parental relationships I would make it sound like modern day mystery meets family drama. It is, yet that summation simply doesn’t do this superb novel justice. This is a novel brimming with as many ideas and characters as it brims with joy, sadness and comedy. It’s a book that encompasses human life and all those things, emotionally and all around it physically, and celebrates them.”

So that is the first half of my list. Have you read any of these and what did you think? The next lot of lovely literature I have loved this year will be up in the not too distant future…

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Christmas Pudding – Nancy Mitford

It is a rather fortuitous coincidence that my 500th review on Savidge Reads should be a Nancy Mitford, it seems somehow wholly appropriate that it should be the case. I can’t quite believe it is 500 reviews on here to be honest, especially as that means I must have read more since the blog started as not every book I read ends up here. It feels like a nice milestone for me regardless and one that is all the more delightful when sharing with you some festive Mitford joy which is just what ‘Christmas Pudding’ was, I don’t normally like Christmas Pudding (I would rather just have a bowl of brandy butter by itself thank you) yet I happily devoured this during Christmas Day.

Capuchin Classics, paperback, 1932, fiction, 207 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

It’s very difficult to try and surmise the comedy of errors of the Bright Young Things of the 1920’s and 30’s that is Nancy Mitford’s ‘Christmas Pudding’ because it as so many different strands to it, but here goes. Paul Fotheringay has written a novel which has not been received by reviewers as he would like, people love it, yet they think it is a highly melodramatic but accomplished farce. In fact it was meant to be a heartbreaking hit based on the bitterness of life and genius that the author believes he has. He has decided that his next work will be a biography of the Victorian poet Lady Maria Bobbins, yet after this is denied he goes undercover thanks to his friend Amabelle’s connections with Bobby Bobbins, Maria’s grandson and here meets her granddaughter Philadelphia and of course becomes smitten. Amabelle herself has decided to move to the Cotswolds for Christmas, becoming a neighbour of the Bobbins grand house, for a bit of novelty (though she initially finds Mulberrie Farm more novelty than nightmare) and so soon they all become embroiled especially after the arrival of Lord Lewes who was in head over heels in love with Amabelle before soon becoming a suitor for Philadelphia too… only a much more likely candidate in the eyes of society and Lady Bobbins herself.

If it sounds like I have given too much away I honestly haven’t because throughout all this there are several other strands, characters and twists to will keep the reader entertained throughout. In fact my one criticism, should I be being rather more lit-crit like, would be that occasionally there are rather too many characters and Bright Young Things (which Mitford seems to give a knowing wink to with names like Bunch, Squibby and Biggy) going on all at once which occasionally takes away from the main events. Stuff being lit-crit like though as like I mentioned this book is designed to be fun and entertaining and indeed it is in abundance.

Nancy Mitford is a genius for writing the caricature and ‘Christmas Pudding’, like all her later works (I haven’t read her debut novel ‘Highland Fling’ this novels predecessor), has these falling out of every page. It is when she takes a stab at the circles and people that she knows that she is at her most frightfully funny, and indeed her sisters said whilst writing this she was often laughing. Whilst I didn’t laugh out loud I was smiling as I read every page as each one contains at least one sentence, saying or small happening which will induce the corners of your mouth to twitch.

“Mother, of course, takes a lot of exercise, walks and so on. And every morning she puts on a pair of black silk drawers and a sweater and makes indelicate gestures on the lawn. That’s called Building the Body Beautiful. She’s mad about it.”

Yet it seems that Nancy also knows that in moments of humour you can get away with some of the most honest observations or thoughts of all and I felt, though some may disagree, that really this novel looks at love be it true or forced because of money. True love it seems was something Nancy was certainly looking for and yet was something which she didn’t believe happened very often. There is only one couple, Sally and Walter, who seems to be a match made from true love and yet they never seem quite truly happy, just happier than most. It’s an interesting insight into the minds of ‘society’ at the time and behind the jokes and farce is certainly something more just cloaked in a certain amount of comedy.

“When I was a girl,” said Sally, “and before I met Walter, you know, I fixed a definite price at which I was willing to overlook boringness. As far as I can remember, it was twenty-five thousand pounds a year. However, nothing more than twelve seemed to offer, so I married Walter instead.”

I really enjoyed ‘Christmas Pudding’ (which could be read at any time of the year as apart from a few festive parties it isn’t quite as Christmassy as you would think from the title) and whilst it isn’t the best of Nancy’s work it’s ‘jolly good’ and in the busyness and mayhem of these caricature creatures there shows the signs of all that is yet to come. I also really admired, and was rather pleasantly surprised by, the fact that Nancy didn’t give us the ending we thought we might be getting, very good. I would heartily recommend more people read this lesser known Nancy novel if you need a lift of spirits and want to get lost in the world of those Bright Young Things.

Which Christmas themed books have you read over the festive period? Have you read any of Nancy’s other lesser known novels? What books set in the 20’s and 30’s have you read and found to be ‘jolly good’? I definitely want to read more from, or set, in that period so would love your recommendations, and you could win something special as part of my 500th review celebrations, though I am almost give-awayed out, ha.

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To Celebrate 500 Reviews, A Mitford Give Away…

As my 500th review has just gone live I thought I would give something away to celebrate. As I feel it’s a rather special coincidence that it is a Nancy Mitford novel I thought I would give three of her novels by the lovely Capuchin Classics (who have kindly offered two sets of all three books they publish to go worldwide) to you lovely lot.

  

All you need to do to be in with a chance of having some utter Mitford magnificence in your reading life in 2012 (I certainly shall be, Highland Fling next I think, or maybe Pigeon Pie, oh too many choices) is pop to my post on Nancy’s ‘Christmas Pudding’ and answer one (or two… or all) of the questions at the bottom. That simple! Good luck, you have until 9am on January the 1st 2012. Hoorah, what a treat, do admit!

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Boxing Day Books (The Savidge Reads Advent Winners)

Hello one and all, I do hope you have a lovely Christmas Day? Thank you for your festive wishes. Mine was very nice; I had goose for the first time and found it rather delicious. I have also been playing card games (mainly spite and malice, which my thirteen year old sister has been teaching me), scrabble, drinking rather a lot and worn my party hat all day long. Oh and I had presents, no books but I got a really funky set of psychedelic proper chef knives for my new pad (I am moving at the end of Jan, oh the books are going to have to be sorted), lots of Jelly Belly – too many is never enough and my favourite present so far has been three pairs of Mr Men lounge pants (Messy, Tickle and Bump) so there was one present with a literary twist. I have been reading but not as much as I would have expected, that is normally left for today, Boxing Day, my favourite Christmas Day.

There is something about Boxing Day that I have always found rather joyous, and not just the left-over’s from Christmas dinner which normally end up in a sandwich (though my Mum is currently off making pastry for a pie this year) and the endless supply of crisps and chocolates that we all buy for Xmas day and then don’t eat because we are too full. I love the fact it’s a delightfully lazy day, well at Savidge Christmas’s it is, we generally spend most of the day lounging around reading before a big TV fest in evening (Miranda Hart going trekking with Bear Grylls will be my Christmas TV highlight) so I am looking forward to that, I have already recorded an episode of The Readers so I feel I can now slob – that was my hard work of the day, now it’s time for my good deed of the day. It’s time for present giving…

Boxing Day can be another day of presents as the family you didn’t see might pop round, we won’t be seeing any other family members so today I have plucked all the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar winners from a random number generator and here are the winners…

Day 1; The Complete Nancy Mitford – Reading With Tea
Day 2; Burned by Thomas Enger – Harriet and Ellen B
Day 3; Smutt by Alan Bennett & Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – Steel Reader and Gaskella
Day 4; Godless Boys by Naomi Wood & Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – Louise and Dog Ear
Day 5; The Great British Bake Off Book – Dovegreyreader and Janet D and Novel Insights
Day 6; Jennifer Egan books – TBA
Day 7; The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall – Rhonda Reads and Simon Saunders and Belinda
Day 8; Shes Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell  – Gaskella and Mystica
Day 9; Sophie Hannah’s series – Emma
Day 10; In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood & China Mieville books – Louise and Ragamuffinreader
Day 11; Sue Johnston autobiography – Sue and Simon T and Ann P
Day 12; Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire – Janet D and Dominic
Day 13; Selected Agatha Raisin books – Kirsten and Victoria
Day 14; The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall – Janet D and Ann P
Day 15; When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Femke and Ruthiella and Alex and Joanne In Canada
Day 16; all David Nicholls novels – Sue
Day 17; Patricia Duncker novels – Gaskella
Day 18; A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French – Ann P and Gabrielle Kimm
Day 19; all the Yrsa Siguardardottir novels – Kimbofo
Day 20; Frozen Planet & White Heat by MJ McGrath – Emma and Mystica
Day 21; A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse & The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Nose in a Book and Novel Katie
Day 22; The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan – Jenni and Ann P and Femke
Day 23; Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series  – David
Day 24; Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series – Harriet

Merry Christmas to both those of you who won (and some of you won a few times) and those who didn’t. If you did email me savidgereads@gmail.com with the book/s you have won in the subject and your address and I will make sure these are sent out in the first week of January. Right, I am off to go and pick at some stuffing before curling up with my book. Hope you are all having a wonderful time, what did you get for Xmas?

Oh and a MASSIVE thank you to the publishers who got involved: Penguin, Faber and Faber, Profile Books, Hodder, Picador, Atlantic, Serpents Tail, Ebury, Corsair, Constable and Robinson, Portobello, Little Brown, Virago, John Murray, Headline, Bloomsbury, Europa Editions, Mantle, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster & Transworld

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The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Begins… #Day One

Isn’t it funny how some great ideas, without that sounding too grand, can come to you at the most random of moments? As I was hunting for two advent calendars for a pair of three year olds – not two for me just to clarify – I was suddenly hit by a wave of inspiration. I had an idea for a festive delight, which just so you all know as I don’t like Christmas at all is rather rare, that I could do to say thank you to all of you who pop by and visit the blog, be you lurkers, commenter’s or possibly just my family and friends who feel obligated to drop by.

So today is the launch of the ‘Savidge Reads Advent Calendar’ and each day in the run up to Christmas I will be giving away some book based booty. These may tie into the reviews that pop up in the lead up to Christmas, they may simply be a book I want for Christmas but am giving to you instead, you might find some advance copies of books for 2012 when you pop by, copies of some of my favourite reads this year or sets of books by authors I love, the joy will be the surprises as they come.

The first of which is one copy of ‘The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford’ which I think would make the perfect read over the festive period and I am indeed looking forward to curling up with myself.

Now because this is such a monster of a book I can only give this away to UK readers as shipping costs would be a nightmare for the publishers who have so kindly offered to give one of you lucky lot a copy. However if you know someone in the UK who might ship it on then do enter. How do you enter? Good point. Simply pop a comment below saying why you would like it, you have until 1100 GMT tomorrow the 2nd of December.  

So enjoy, there will be some international giveaways coming as I want to be able to thank you all for your support in what hasn’t been my favourite year to date but you have all added a lot of cheer to through the blog and your comments. Anyway enough of those sentimental shenanigans… back to being a Scrooge again (seriously I really don’t like Christmas). I wonder what will be appearing tomorrow…

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