Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category

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Christmas Stories: On Christmas Day in the Evening

December 23, 2016

Grace S. Richmond wrote a sequel to On Christmas Day in the Morning, and it’s called On Christmas Day in the Evening. It’s pretty religious, but mostly in a cute way. It takes place two years after the events of On Christmas Day in the Morning, and it revolves around the village church, which has been standing empty for several years after a series of disagreements in the congregation.

The Fernald kids, led by Nan, decide to open the church for a one-off Christmas service, hoping to bring the villagers together. They enlist Guy’s brother-in-law, a minister in a fashionable city church, and he in turn enlists a retired minister who hasn’t given a sermon in fifteen years, but knows all about the local quarrels.

Everything winds up exactly as you’d expect, and even the family grouch gets in on the Christmas spirit action, but the story didn’t move me. I think it’s because all of the Fernalds are totally fine, and nothing is at stake. Even the Fernald parents, the only ones who still live in the village, aren’t involved–they’ve stayed out of their neighbors’ quarrels. The characters who are involved serve as country stereotype comic relief, so they don’t help much either.

I think Richmond is trying to bring in exactly the kind of firsthand emotion the story needs when she introduces Elder Blake, but he’s not central enough. She might have done better to give On Christmas Day in the Evening a brand new setting and not bother with the Fernalds at all. I like them, and was glad to encounter them again, but nothing about them is essential to the story.

 

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The House With Sixty Closets

December 22, 2016

I started writing a review of The House With Sixty Closets when I was only about twenty pages in, because I was enjoying it so much. This is not that review. I stopped enjoying it.

Here’s the thing: I loved the first section. The second section is worthwhile. The rest of the book is pretty much a dream sequence, and I don’t deal well with those. But I really do unreservedly recommend the description of the sixty closets and how they came to be, and if you really feel like reading about portraits coming to life and giving out allegorical Christmas presents and throwing a party chiefly attended by closets, you can continue.

The book took on another dimension when I learned that the house with sixty closets was a real house and Frank Samuel Child (the author) lived in it and the girl whose parents would like to fit her with a muzzle was in fact one of his daughters. I think this might make the book worse, because it means that only the truthful bits were enjoyable.

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Christmas Stories: On Christmas Day in the Morning

December 15, 2016

On Christmas Day in the Morning, by Grace S. Richmond, has everything I want in a Christmas story: brevity, nostalgia, just enough sadness to highlight the happiness, and, most importantly, the Unity of Christmastimes.

Guy Fernald, paying his parents a visit one Christmas, is dismayed to find that he’s the only one of the six Fernald kids to show up at all. Edson, Oliver, Carolyn and Nan have families of their own, Ralph lives out West, and Guy himself has spent the bulk of Christmas day with the girl he hopes to marry. His parents are touchingly happy to see him, which only makes Guy feel more guilty, and he promises himself that next Christmas will be different. Fast forward to the following December, when Guy starts enlisting his siblings in his Christmas plan. The plan works out, and so does Guy’s romance, and the whole thing is sweet and satisfying and so heartwarming I cried a little.

There were a couple of dialogues between the parents that struck a slightly false note for me, and, as ever, I wanted more detail—food and presents and Guy convincing his siblings—but I’m not inclined to complain. The story, like the plan, is carried along by Guy’s enthusiasm, and everything else falls neatly into place.

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Christmas Stories: The Truce of God

December 22, 2009

So, it should come as no surprise that I think Mary Roberts Rinehart is awesome. And part of the reason for that is that she’s always at least a little bit surprising. I had no idea what to expect from The Truce of God, her Christmas story, and I’m not altogether sure what I think of it now, but I’m definitely impressed.

First of all, the Truce of God is a pretty cool thing to write about. During the eleventh century, the European nobility  were referred to as “those who fight” (as opposed to “those who work” and “those who pray”), because basically they spent most of their time fighting private wars against their neighbors (or their overlords’ neighbors). The church dealt with this in a few different ways. One was the Crusades. Another was the Truce of God. Basically, the Church said, “Hey, no one is allowed to fight on weekends anymore. Or Thursdays. Or Lent, etc.”  The Catholic Encyclopedia has a little more detail, if you’re interested (in general, it’s a good basic resource for medieval religious history). Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Mr. Kris Kringle

December 20, 2009

I didn’t love Mr. Kris Kringle, but I really wished there was more of it.

It’s very basic: a mother and her two children are spending Christmas alone. Things are going badly for them financially, and they’re going to have to give up the house. The mother tells the kids that Santa will not be visiting this year. Then she sends them to bed and cries over the portrait of her estranged husband for a bit; she sent him away because he was an alcoholic. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Chistmas

December 18, 2009

Rupert Hughes, author and (I assume) illustrator of Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Christmas, has restored my faith in Christmas stories. It is heartwarming! It has lovely illustrations! It has the Unity of Christmastimes!

It also has a kind of  self-consciously uneducated narration that I didn’t exactly love, but I forgive it.

Most Christmas stories are set in, or centered around, particular homes — preferably old and/or cosy ones — but Colonel Crockett is about the people who can’t be home for Christmas: actors on the road, businessmen in the middle of big deals, families living out of hotels. People like the couple in A Versailles Christmas-tide, or the young men in The Romance of a Christmas Card in the years before they return home. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Christmas, A Happy Time; A Tale, Calculated for the Amusement and Instruction of Young Persons

December 17, 2009

Christmas, A Happy Time, by Alicia Catherine Mant (or, as the title page says, Miss Mant) is a typical children’s story of the 1830s, which means that nothing happens. Well, a dog dies, principally so that Miss Mant can make it clear just how important it is for children to obey their parents. Not that the children in this story do disobey their parents. It’s just — I really can’t see any point to this story. It’s not amusing, it’s not instructive, and it’s not Christmassy.