Thursday, 27 December 2018

Read in 2018 - 21, 22, 23, 24

As the four books reviewed in this post were my seasonal reading this Christmas, and all relatively short, I decided to make just one and not four posts of them. 

All were published in the space of the 10 years from 1905 to 1915. The style and language, message and morals are typical for that time: Many people were full of optimism about the progress humanity had made in terms of sciences, technology and schools of thought; they believed the solution to the big problems and the answers to the big questions of society as a whole were just round the corner.
Others were more sceptical and saw that the world was approaching a time of hitherto unseen terrors of war and that things were going to change forever right in front of their eyes.
Some of this can be read between the lines in one or other of these stories. Generally, though, all four books are meant to be uplifting and conveying the Christmas message to the reader, touching both mind and soul.

The pictures are not mine - I found them on the internet, and they show the books as the physical volumes may look. Mine were (of course) all free ebooks from the Kindle store with the same standard cover.

21) Little City of Hope / A Christmas Story
by F. Marion Crawford
published in 1907

A poor inventor and his 13-year-old son have not much to look forward to this Christmas. But as they start building a little city of paper and matchboxes, bits of wood and other things found in the workshop, hope begins to find her way into their hearts.
For a while, it seems they built their little city of Hope in vain, but all ends well.

I found the inventor and his son likeable characters and enjoyed the description of their model city. How their frugal daily life was depicted was meant to make the reader sorry for them, but from a 2018 reader's perspective, some of it is hard to understand. For instance, father and son are so poor they can only afford the most miserable cottage of their town, with just one stove to warm the entire place, so that the washing water in the upstairs bedroom of the boy freezes in the jug. And yet they still have a woman doing their cooking for them, and their cleaning and so on. If I were that poor, I surely would make my own meals and do my own household work, wouldn't you?

Anyway, a nice read and a glimpse of different times.

The author has his own wikipedia entry here.

22) The Romance of a Christmas Card
by Kate Douglas Wiggin
published in 1915

The wife of a village vicar is a talented painter and writer, and makes a little extra money by selling pictures and poems to be published as Christmas cards. When she paints her lonely neighbour sitting by the window of her humble cottage one winter night shortly before Christmas, she has no idea that the published card will return love and happiness not only to her friend, but also to her own home.

I enjoyed how village life was depicted as a mix of good and bad - the good that can come from a close-knit community helping each other as well as the bad such closeness with nosey neighbours and tongue-wagging villagers can bring.

You can read about the author here on wikipedia.

23) The Spirit of Christmas
by Henry van Dyke
published in 1905

This was the most religious of the four, containing not one continuous story but lectures or articles derived from lectures as well as two prayers. They made for some interesting reading, though, with sometimes a surprisingly modern approach to various subjects. 

Click here for the author's wikipedia entry. (Kay probably knows that he wrote the English lyrics to Beethoven's Ode to Joy.)

24) Rosemary: A Christmas Story
by C. N. and A. M. Williamson
published in 1906

Probably meant for a young-ish audience, the author tells the story of how two former lovers find each other again and one fatherless girl gains a new father. It is rather sentimental, but interesting for its glimpse into the differences between rich and poor folks at the turn of the century.
For a Christmas story, the setting of sunny and mild Monte Carlo in winter is rather unusual - there is not a single snow flake in sight in this book!

Alice Muriel Williamson often published under the joint names of herself and her husband, Charles Norris Williamson. Both have their own wikipedia entries; the one for Charles Norris is linked to from Alice Muriel's here.


  1. I've read The Romance of a Christmas Card, but not the Crawford book which I will look for. These are books from the era our Chautauqua cottage was built and first lived in (not by us, of course!). I do enjoy them. Actually, they are a bit later, but I collected books from this era for a long time, for the cottage. They can seem a bit sentimental, but I enjoy them a lot.I didn't know much about Crawford or the Williamsons, so am happy for these links.

    1. I did not know anything about any of the authors, so I had a look myself when I wrote this review. What a great idea to collect books for your cottage from its youth!

  2. These books sound delightful to read, especially The Romance of a Christmas Card.

    1. If I had to decide on a favourite of the four, I think "Christmas Card" would be mine.

  3. I love these old books that you find! The only author I've heard of is Wiggin. If you are interested in her, I wrote a bit here:

    1. Thank you - I just went back to read your post from 2011 and my own comment :-)