callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

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December books

The Rule of Ten , Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
Whatever Makes You Happy, William Sutcliffe.
Fell Farm for Christmas , Marjorie Lloyd
A Redbird Christmas , Fannie Flagg
A Country Christmas , Miss Read
Falling for Christmas , Debbie Macomber
Lanterns Across the Snow, Susan Hill
A Christmas Carol , Charles Dickens
The Box of Delights , John Masefield
The Christmas Village, Melissa Ann Goodwin
Christmas at Nettleford, Malcolm Saville
Death Comes to Pemberley . P D James
What I Hate from A to Z, Roz Chast
The Agatha Raisin Companion , introduced by M C Beaton
A Romance of a Christmas Card, Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Old Peabody Pew, Kate Douglas Wiggin
Christmas Every Day & Other Stories, William Dean Howells

A lot of Christmassy books, several new to me. The Christmas Village is an American children’s book which I liked a lot. Jamie is a troubled boy. His disgraced father has deserted the family and Jamie is not only angry with his dad but takes it out on his poor mother. When his best friend says he’s not allowed to hang out with him any more, it’s the last straw. Mom packs the car and sets off on a ten hour drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s. Jamie is still sulky but fascinated when Grandma sets out a little porcelain village as a Christmas decoration.
“A sign on a brick building read Canterbury Town Hall and another read Canterbury Post Office. Aunt Polly’s Kitchen and The Canterbury Savings Bank rounded out Main Street, which was lined with tiny streetlamps decorated with red bows. A tiny statue of a soldier stood in the town square. Scattered about the village were other buildings: Miss Ida’s Boarding House, Vanderzee’s Welding & Ironworks and the Canterbury General Store. On a hill at the outskirts of the village, a blue Victorian mansion with gables and two chimneys overlooked a cluster of cozy cottages. At the very center of the village was a glass pond on which two figures, a boy and girl, skated. Though they were tiny — less than two inches tall — Jamie could make out every detail of their clothing. The girl wore a red coat with matching hat, a white scarf and gloves, red and white striped stockings and white skates. The boy wore a blue jacket with gold buttons, gray pants and hat, and a blue striped scarf and mittens. In a clearing near the pond, a black Scottish terrier with a red plaid bow around its neck sniffed at a snowman that sported a black top hat and a bright orange scarf with a large black “P” on one end. . . .Later that evening, Jamie wandered into the living room for a last look before bed. Crimson embers glowed in the hearth. Grandpa snored loudly but peacefully in his chair. Jamie tiptoed past him to peer at the Christmas Village. He imagined the skaters trudging home, their skates thrown over their shoulders and their cheeks rosy from wind and cold. He pictured the banker closing up for the night and the welders returning to their cozy cottages after a long day at work. He imagined a choir practicing in the church and happy families eating pot roast and biscuits smothered with honey in front of warm fireplaces. Jamie imagined how perfect life would be in a perfect little village like Canterbury. His heart ached to live in such a place, where nothing ever changed. “I wish I could live in Canterbury,”

Jamie gets his wish and finds himself in Canterbury, but in 1932. He makes friends and seems to have a job to do there but at the same time “I want to get home in time for Christmas. Somehow I got here, and now I have to find a way to get home. I have to.” How he manages it and what happens after make this a perfect time travel story. After writing about Mrs Miracle and trilling that it would make a lovely film, I was told that there are two films about her! I watched the first one and felt rather like Jamie looking at Canterbury; I’d like to live in a place like that and have a Mrs Miracle to look after me.

One of the delights of the Kindle is being able to get so much free stuff for it, much of it old. This year I picked two books by Kate Douglas Wiggin, A Romance of a Christmas Card and The Old Peabody Pew, plus Christmas Every Day & Other Stories by, William Dean Howells.

Most people know Kate Douglas Wiggin as the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I didn’t read this until I was grown up and so find it rather creepy, with the love interest too close to what we would now call grooming. It is a lovely story about country life, though. The two books I downloaded are both set in small towns dominated by churches and women. Like L M Montgomery, KDW seems very familiar with this way of life and is also amusing about it.

“If only we had a few more men-folks to help along!" "Or else none at all!" was Lobelia Brewster's suggestion. "It's havin' so few that keeps us all stirred up. If there wa'n't any anywheres, we'd have women deacons and carpenters and painters, and get along first rate; for somehow the supply o' women always holds out, same as it does with caterpillars an' flies an' grasshoppers!"
In each story, unsatisfactory men who’ve left town return at Christmas time for a very satisfactory ending.
“His hand touched hers, and as the music of the hymn rose and fell, the future unrolled itself before his eyes; a future in which Nancy was his wedded wife; and the happy years stretched on and on in front of them until there was a row of little heads in the old Peabody pew, and mother and father could look proudly along the line at the young things they were bringing into the house of the Lord.”

Christmas Every Day & Other Stories, is completely different. I suppose it was written as a children’s book, as each story begins with a little girl climbing on her Daddy’s knee and begging for a story. But what stories! In the first one, a child wishes for it to be Christmas every day, with dire consequences. The second, about turkey ghosts after Thanksgiving was simply horrifying. I would never let a child read this and gave up on it myself. Much better to read Nettleford, as I do every year or even Fell Farm for Christmas. I’d forgotten how jolly hearty the children are, always tramping: ‘not a proper expedition, just a walk. We can easily do eight or nine miles by teatime.’ Yikes!
Tags: children's books, kate douglas wiggin, malcolm saville, melissa ann goodwin, william dean howells

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