Peace on Earth, Good-will to Dogs

December 15, 2008

If A Versailles Christmas-tide was only accidentally a Christmas story, Eleanor Hallowell Abbott’s Peace on Earth, Good-will to Dogs is it’s exact opposite. It is more emphatically a Christmas story than A Christmas Carol. It begins with the line, “If you don’t like Christmas stories, don’t read this one!” (I should add that, being by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, it contains much unnecessary cuteness and a really emphatic use of exclamation points.)

The heroine is named Flame. She is in her late teens. She is stubborn like her mother. She is dreamy like her father. I have accidentally picked up Eleanor Hallowell Abbott’s writing style.

I thought when I read The Fairy Prince that Abbott was using lots of short, simple sentences because her narrator was a child. Apparently, though, it is something she does on a regular basis.

Flame is short for Flamande, and she is the minister’s daughter. A day or two before Christmas, she is excited to see that someone is moving into what she calls “the Rattle-Pane House,” which has been deserted for years. She goes to investigate, but all she finds are three dogs (a dalmatian, a Russian wolfhound, and an Irish setter, who she names, respectively, Blunder-blot, Beautiful-lovely, and Flopsy) and a butler. She hears the butler speaking of a Miss Flora, and concludes that she is the dogs’ owner, but she turns out to be a bulldog.

Flame’s parents have to go away to visit a relative on Christmas, and Flame ends up volunteering to watch the dogs so that the butler can spend Christmas with a cousin. She spends the day preparing a Christmas dinner and fending off the advances of an amorous lay reader named Bertrand (she has promised her mother not to see him, but she circumvents this by wearing a blindfold). Complications abound, but in time everything gets straightened out, Flame falls in love, and Bertrand-the-Lay-Reader gets sent to jail, although only for a little while.

I like Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, but I think she may be one of those authors with whom familiarity breeds contempt, if only because it is very easy to figure out what’s coming next once you get to know her style. She’s entertaining enough, and this story is very sweet and very Christmas-y, but I’ve given up hope that I’ll ever find anything else of hers as wonderful as The Indiscreet Letter.

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