Book Review: The Greatest Gift

January 9, 2013 Whitney Review 1 Comment

Book Review: The Greatest GiftThe Greatest Gift
Author Philip Van Doren Stern
Publisher Simon and Schuster
Publication Date October 28, 2014
Source: Gift

A beautiful gift edition of the heartwarming story that became the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

For almost seventy years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a dream one night.

Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today.

Now fans of It’s a Wonderful Life, or anyone who loves the spirit of Christmas, can own the story that started it all in an elegant, illustrated edition that’s perfect for holiday giving. It includes an Afterword by Stern’s daughter, Marguerite Stern Robinson, that tells the story of how her father’s Christmas card became the movie beloved by generations of people around the world.

The Greatest Gift is best known as the inspiration for Frank Capra’s beloved It’s A Wonderful Life.  This short story was a surprise to me not only because of how enchanting it is, putting life in perspective, but also because of the differences between this and it’s adapted movie.  First off, there is no Uncle Billy or Mr. Potter, George Bailey is not even George Baily, he is George Pratt.  It made me realize how much Frank Capra added to It’s A Wonderful Life, although how could you make a two-hour movie out of a 36 page short story?  Some liberties have to be taken.  Philip Van Doren Stern’s The Greatest Gift is a must read for the Christmas season and should stand next to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol


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