I read Alice Thomas Ellis's The Inn at the Edge of the World (1990) as part of my batch of seasonal, wintery books, having heard about it from Jenny at Shelf Love. It fits as a winter read, sort of - the book is all about characters who want to avoid Christmas, which in a way, makes it entirely about Christmas. It was an odd little book to read for this season, strangely dark and occasionally even making me genuinely nervous for the fate of the characters.
Having difficulties with his wife Mabel, Eric buys "an inn at the edge of the world": on a lonely island off the coast of Scotland. There, he doesn't fit in well with the locals and Mabel gets even more miserable. In a desperate bid to regain some pride in himself and his work, Eric advertises this inn at the edge of the world as a holiday for people who want to get away from Christmas. It's like a cold, wet, miserable version of Elizabeth von Arnim's Enchanted April. Five people come: Harry, a suicidal former soldier; Jessica, a jaded famous actress; Jon, a mentally disturbed actor stuck on Jessica, who fancies she is secretly yearning for him; Anita, a lonely saleswoman disappointed by Christmas; and Ronald, a therapist whose wife has just left him (and left him helpless to take care of himself). The novel is largely about their holiday on the island. Just as in The Enchanted April, friendships arise, things happen, and people change, but in this novel, not all of these changes are for the better, and there's a thread of foreboding winding its way through the narrative. Add to this a hefty dose of Scottish folklore - the natives of this island may or may not be selkies (seals in human form) - and it's a recipe for a deliciously atmospheric winter read.