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Santa: A Life

3.05 of 5 stars 3.05  ·  rating details  ·  37 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Santa Claus began as Nicholas, a Byzantine bishop whose anonymous acts of nighttime charity would turn him into the most popular and enduring of all saints. Jeremy Seal's journey follows Nicholas's all-conquering expansion west from Turkey to the Crusader ports of Bari and Venice, and thence to 16th century Amsterdam. Seal records his subject's 20th century rebirth in the ...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published November 3rd 2006 by Picador (first published January 1st 2005)
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Jennifer
This book suffers from two enormous errors made by its author: (1) he wrongly assumes that his own person is interesting enough to be inserted into the narrative; (2) he wrongly decides to resurrect Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, and turn him into a fame seeking opportunist, hell bent on securing his rightful place in a secular world (this latter move is so grotesque it isn't even worth the time it would take to explain it).

Nevertheless, as its topic is intrinsically fascinating, I was glad that I r
...more
Jessica
Allow me to describe this book as one would a fine wine: Dry yet fruity, with not-too-subtle sarcastic notes.

What I had hoped would be a straightforward history of Santa Claus, his origins as a Turkish bishop and Christian saint, leading up to the current world-wide icon, is instead a chance for Jeremy Seal to show off. The man doesn't so much write about Saint Nicholas as tap dance around and over him. Each paragraph is a dizzying spiral that requires careful reading to discern any point. And o
...more
Paul
I was hoping for a history of the transformation of Nicholas, itinerant Bishop of Myra, into Santa Claus, movie star and bringer of toys around the world.

Sadly not in this book. There's lots of information in here if you can wade through Seal's personal travelogue. While I'm sure he enjoyed visiting the various sites associated with Nicholas (and probably claiming them as expenses associated with writing the book), they're often intrusive to the story. On top of this he refers to Nicholas as som
...more
Meredith
The title is misleading. Rather than the history of how a 4th Century bishop became a Coca-Cola drinking, 20th Century, pop culture icon, this is a world travelogue heavily seasoned with autobiography. The author visits a variety of places associated with both St. Nicholas and Santa Claus, but he tends to get lost in own musings about his own life instead of focusing upon the mysterious transformation of his research subject.
If the reader is willing to wade through the author's creative nonfict
...more
Gerund
Santa: A Life, by British writer Jeremy Seal, opens with the definitive scene from the life of St Nicholas, a Byzantine priest who lived during the 4th century. St Nicholas is seen secretly passing an object through an open window, into a house where three girls are huddled. They are the daughters of a fallen nobleman, and are in despair because their father, not having money for their dowries, has no choice but to sell them into prostitution.

They are saved from this fate, however, by the steal
...more
Paul Pensom
This was an interesting but also a frustrating book; a record of the mythical journey from Saint to Santa taken by the 4th century Turkish bishop St. Nicholas, it was exasperating because the author used the story as the pretext to write a rather tedious Levantine travelogue.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I'd known that was what I was reading, but since it was Santa I was after, it quickly became annoying. Also, the balance of the book was wrong: there was far too much time spent in th
...more
Rosanna
Jan 31, 2010 Rosanna rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yes
The descriptions of Turkey are wonderful! It was nice to feel as though I was traveling while reading a book. I especially like the author's visit to the rooftop chapel, Lapland, and the bus ride through England. The descriptions of Italy could have been better.

I thought that the narration was a bit strange. The author has written the book as though St. Nicholas intended to become famous and morph into Santa Claus.

I would not recommend this book for children because it makes several references t
...more
Suzie Grogan
This is not a typical Christmas book. it is a well researched 'biography' of Santa which spends two thirds of its length discussing his origins as St Nicholas and how that venerable saint managed to manouevre himself into the right places at the right times to become the 'father' of Christmas. Fascinating, rich in detail and ultimately a book that really does convince, despite all the current commercialisation, that there is an element of truth in the genuine goodness of the season.
Mimi
Like other reviewers have said, this book is very odd in perspective and writing style. Dense paragraphs that you need to read more than once, a travelogue with the author prominently inserted into the narrative, and the character of St. Nicholas is seen as intentionally manipulating his hagiography.
Interesting for the history and for the places, but not absorbing, and not one I'd recommend.
Crazy Uncle Ryan
This book was extremely good. The author traced the origins of the Santa Claus myth with a high degree of scholarship and I really liked how it was formatted in such a way as to make me really feel like I was along for the journey. This book is great for anyone who is interested in learning more about how we got the icon we know as Santa Claus.
Joshua Duffy
Pretty impressive journey this guy went on to write the book, and it was a decent book; but I didn't much care for his writing style, and it just didn't keep my interest much. Personal preferences kept me from enjoying this one more, I guess.
Paul Valente
At times interesting at times rather dull travel book focusing on the genesis of Santa Claus, with too much analysis on his origins as St Nicholas in Myra, and too little on the transformation to more modern incarnations.
Lara
Jan 25, 2009 Lara marked it as started-stopped  ·  review of another edition
I tried to get into this book, but I couldn't.
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Jeremy Seal is a writer and broadcaster. His first book, A Fez of the Heart, was shortlisted for the 1995 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. He is also the author of The Snakebite Survivors' Club and The Wreck at Sharpnose Point, and presenter of Channel 4's ‘Wreck Detectives’. He lives in Bath with his wife and daughters.
More about Jeremy Seal...
A Fez of the Heart: Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat The Snakebite Survivors' Club: Travels among Serpents Meander: East to West, Indirectly, Along a Turkish River The Wreck at Sharpnose Point La Turchia a cavallo di un fez

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