If you encounter me at all on social media, you may well have seen me singing the praises of a new indie publishing imprint, Renard Press. Run by Will Dady, Renard has an ambitious publishing programme lined up and has already produced some intriguing titles. Pleasingly, they offer subscriptions and having had lovely experiences with other bookish subs this year, I just couldn’t resist… The first book I received was a beautiful edition of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” (as well as a gorgeous tote bag); the second package contained two beautiful hand-bound booklets – Tolstoy’s “A Letter to a Hindu” and Willa Cather’s short story “The Burglar’s Christmas”.

Now, Cather is an author I’m familiar with in that I own a number of her books; yet I have actually read very few of them which is silly really, because what I have read I’ve loved. And my BFF J. adores her… So as I was in a vague kind of reading slump, I decided to pick this one up now and I raced through it!

“Burglar’s..” is a simple seasonal tale, first published in 1896. We are in wintry Chicago and as it opens we encounter two men who are on their beam ends. With no money, no food and nowhere to go, Christmas doesn’t seem to hold much promise for the men and as they go their separate ways, we follow the younger one. As his life and character are gradually revealed, it seems he’s struck out on his own away from a comfortable background, yet has failed at every juncture. He decides to hit rock bottom and go for a seasonal burglary in an attempt to stave off starvation, with little hope of carrying on his life much further. However fate, and perhaps the spirit of Christmas, have something else in store for him…

I’m not going to say any more about the story as I don’t want to spoil it; all I will say is that the resolution is unexpected and did bring a bit of a glow to my heart! Cather writes beautifully and evocatively, really bringing her setting to life in such a short work; and I loved the writing so much I went back and read the story again! It’s a tale which would make perfect Christmas reading…

I also have to say something about the loveliness of the little hand-bound booklet. It has a plain blue cover with title band and a patterned lining paper and is just gorgeous. As someone who enjoys making their own hand-bound journals, I really appreciate a lovely object like this which so enhances the reading experience. Renard Press obviously have many strings to their bow, and I do love the fact that they’re releasing such a range of formats.

So encountering this Willa Cather short work was a real joy (and hopefully will impel me to pick up one of the books on my shelves by her sooner rather than later). Kudos to Renard for releasing such a lovely edition; and NB – anyone who knows me and would be likely to want to read this and who’s likely to get a Christmas card from me – don’t rush out and buy it… More than this I cannot say! ;D