In this special series, we asked writers we admire to share a book they're giving to their friends and family this holiday season. Check back daily to see the books your favorite authors are gifting.
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I think the ideal gift book, particularly in winter, should satisfy the following conditions: (1) It should be hefty. (2) It should be, additionally, engrossing — a story that settles heavy and warm across your brain. And finally, (3) it should be pure pleasure. A gift shouldn't feel like homework.
By this rubric, Hild, the new historical novel from Nicola Griffith, is beyond ideal. To summarize, briefly: it's a story set in seventh-century England, tracing the life of its namesake, the woman known today as St. Hilda of Whitby. Early reviews have compared it to George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, and there is, indeed, plenty of court intrigue here, but I think Hild is both subtler and less cynical than Martin's saga. It's a grown-up tale that could nonetheless sit comfortably alongside books by Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliff, and Susanna Clarke (all favorites of mine).
Anyway, I got my hands on an advance copy of Hild earlier this year and found myself utterly absorbed. It's been a while since I was so happy reading a book this fat. Maybe you'll recognize this feeling: you're a few hundred pages in, head spinning with everything that's happened, hungry for more but now reckoning with the reality that no book lasts forever... until you realize, with delight and even a bit of disbelief, that you're not even to the halfway point yet.
There really needs to be a word for that feeling. A long German word.
So, Hild had me lost in its pages for days and, yes, buckling under its weight somewhat. I've ordered three more copies earmarked as Christmas gifts; after delivery, I expect not to hear from their recipients for a while. That's as it should be. This is the time of year to surrender without struggle to the pleasure of a big, bountiful book.