The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern

This book’s title isn’t one that’s going to stand out to most people, and the author’s name is also one that’s fallen into relative obscurity. However, if I were to say that this is the story upon which the Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life was based, I’m sure you’d recognise that.

Admittedly, this is a rare case where you could say that the movie is better than the book. This ‘book’ was just printed as a pamphlet originally and you can easily read the whole thing within just 30 minutes or so. It’s a quick read, for sure, but at the same time, in such a short space of time it manages to do something pretty amazing – it gives us the concept of a suicidal man who is given the opportunity to see what the world would be like without him in it.

Although the movie did a much better job of fleshing out the characters and exploring the reasons that he wants to end his life, the credit for such a fascinating idea goes to The Greatest Gift. It’s a very well written story, that paints a very vivid picture of a town on a dark Christmas night, and which does a good job of endearing you to the main character, George, and his mysterious guardian angel who grants his wish to see what the world would be like if he had never been born.

It’s whimsical and mysterious in just the right way and manages to capture all the emotions I want in a Christmas story. While it is hard to find the time to sit down and watch all three hours of It’s A Wonderful Life, The Greatest Gift is ideal for anyone who’s looking for a cosy little read for the night of Christmas Eve.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it here.

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